Hand holding a pen on paper

Removing the red tape: addressing the permit backlog

We are taking action to speed up our response and processing times. Actions to date are anticipated to save up to 13,800 weeks of processing.

Actions we are taking

To speed up response and processing times, we are temporarily:

  • Relaxing our permit application regulations and review process
  • Cutting steps from our process

Our goals:

  • Process your permits faster
  • Significantly reduce staff review times
  • Provide you with more predictable results

City Manager's task force:

  • Work is underway to identify the steps involved
  • Phased, multi-month process

Addressing our development and building permitting process has been a top priority for the past three years. However, like to many other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed underlying challenges with our processes.

With the closure of the Service Centre, we have had an exponential increase in requests. Currently, wait times for an application review are increasingly unmanageable, as well as are our permit processing times.

To clear the permit and license backlog, we are taking action to speed up our response and processing times.

Progress underway

Opportunity Benefit Anticipated savings Status

Faster processing for some residential applications

Temporary removal of conditional guidelines and reviews for one- and two-family dwellings in specific neighbourhoods. 12 weeks processing time per application Approved by Council
Pilot a 12-month partial relaxation of the Tree By-law

Some tree permits for private property may be issued without an arborist review.

Trees smaller than 30cm diameter may be removed without a tree permit.

Existing trees may be removed if they impede the development of an accessory building (like a garage).

Two weeks processing time per application Approved by Council
Landscape maintenance

Construction applicants are now responsible for landscape maintenance during demolitions, renovations, and field review.

Three weeks processing time per application Approved by Council
Improved data collection Pilot new data collection to streamline energy compliance (ASHRAE) process. Two weeks processing time per application In progress
Waive penalties Waive penalties for some instances of previously unpermitted work carried out, depending on the scope and age of the work. 

Reduction in staff research

Two weeks processing time per application

In progress
Online enquiry form

Building and development enquiries can now be submitted through an online form, which provides a tracking number for status updates via 3-1-1.

Significant savings in trips to City Hall, service levels, traceability of requests, and customer experience Completed
Electronic plan (ePlan)

Electronic plan (ePlan) accepts electronic plans for six of eight permit types, electronic seals, and signatures. 

Development permit applications are now accepted, paid, and processed electronically.

Significantly reduced costs related to printing, courier, drop off wait time, and customer experience

Reduce paper-based work and in-person visits

Completed
Inspections

Booking or cancelling an inspection is now a one-stop process with everything you need on one page.

Improvements in efficiency, service levels, and customer experience Completed
Excavation and shoring Eligible new developments who require excavation or shoring may receive their building permit in advance of their development permit.  Increased flexibility to begin excavation or shoring while other components of the project are finalized Approved by Council
Reduce requirements and costs for businesses (24-month pilot program)

Waive development permit for eligible businesses (general office, retail store, health care office, barber shop, or beauty salon, and beauty and wellness centre) changing to a different use.

Waive occupancy upgrade for eligible businesses changing between personal use and mercantile. 

Increase parking minimums for commercial or heritage zones to 300m.

Up to 20 weeks processing time per application for eligible businesses* changing to a different use

Up to 8 weeks processing time per application for eligible businesses changing between personal use and mercantile

Increased office staff to review application and clear backlogs for commercial or heritage zones to 300m

Approved by Council
Reduced Vancouver Building Bylaw (24-month pilot program)

Simplified application and review process.

Small suites occupancy is increased to 100 persons.

Subdividing a suite no longer triggers a major renovation.

Up to 17 weeks processing and review time per application  Approved by Council
Site drawings Simplified site drawing requirements for eligible residential and commercial renovations. One week processing and review per application In progress
On site review Detailed review of commercial and residential renovation permits will now be completed by inspectors.

Increased office staff to review applications and clear backlogs

Up to four weeks processing and review per application

In progress

We’ll be bringing recommendations to speed up permitting for residential applications to Council in early 2022.

Contact the Development and Building Services Centre

Contact us online

Phone: 604-873-7611

Access to the Services Centre is by appointment only. Walk-in service and drop-in appointments are not available. 

Location and mailing address
Development and Building Services Centre
515 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4A8

Transit nearby

  • Broadway-City Hall SkyTrain Station
  • 99 B-line, #15, and #9 buses