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Burnaby, B.C. cites ‘building boom’ as development permits top $2B for first time

Click to play video: 'Burnaby building boom shatters records'
Burnaby building boom shatters records
Burnaby, once seen as a haven for single-family homes and sprawling suburban development on Vancouver's eastern edge, has already issued building permits worth $2 billion in 2022, shattering the previous record for a whole year. Kristen Robinson reports – Nov 18, 2022

The City of Burnaby, B.C., says it has smashed all records for the value of building permits issued in a single year.

With more than a month left in 2022, the city has issued 1,133 development permits worth $2.1 billion. That’s nearly double the $1.09-billion value on 1,092 permits issued in 2021.

“During the pandemic, many shut down but we kept going with our permit system, with our building inspection, and I think that’s what you are seeing now, is because we stayed steady on the road … now you are starting to see these permits come to fruition and buildings come to fruition,” Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley told Global News of the boom.

Read more: BC Housing, Burnaby reach financing deal to preserve threatened co-op housing

While the value of permits has soared, the actual number of permits issued grew only slightly this year.

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Edward Kozak, Burnaby’s general manager of planning and development, ascribed the discrepancy to the growth of higher-value larger and more complex projects that have grown out of years of planning.

Rather than a single downtown, Burnaby has focused on channeling development into four town centres, and Kozak said extensive consultation with both the community and developers has allowed those plans to be executed with fewer hiccups than other Metro Vancouver municipalities.

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New affordable housing building opens in Burnaby

“What we saw this year so far and hopefully into the future is all of that coming together,” he said.

“They range anywhere from a single residential tower with townhouses to large mixed-use multi-family and commercial developments, multi-phased that can occur over a number of years.”

Read more: City of Burnaby looks at immediate housing solutions

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Burnaby’s rental use zoning policy, which requires new multi-family developments to include affordable rentals, has also pushed up the value of those permits, he said.

The city says there are currently more than 12,000 units of rental housing in the pipeline, and that for the first time in the city’s history there are more non-market rentals than rentals being built.

Simon Fraser University City Plan director Andy Yan said the city’s focus on community plans, produced through consultation with both residents and developers, has created a stable environment that is attractive for new housing projects.

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Affordable housing concerns

“It was really a collaborative process that involved residents, developers, as well as other levels of government which came together to have an agreed upon plan and strategy towards how the City of Burnaby could develop,” he said.

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“I think from that type of predictability they were able to build a process through which developers were able to quickly get their development permits through, as opposed to having it jammed up in a process that would take months, if not years — possibly decades.”

Read more: B.C. mulls overriding local governments to promote more housing development

Heavy investment in transit in the city has also been a key element, he said. All four of Burnaby’s town centres — Brentwood, Lougheed, Metrotown and Edmonds —  are served by SkyTrain.

Despite the boom, real estate and rental prices across Metro Vancouver remain out of reach for many, the city says its population continues to grow by between two and five per cent per year — and faster in the town centres — meaning more units are always needed.

“There are always people who think development is moving too fast, and there are people who think it is moving too slow,” Hurley said.

“There’s 8 billion people in the world now, many of them want to live here. The world is growing and our city is going to grow.”

– with files from Kristen Robinson

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