Vancouver homebuilder calls out city’s ‘broken system’ for renovation permits

Click to play video: 'Vancouver builder calls out city’s renovation permit process'
Vancouver builder calls out city’s renovation permit process
What was supposed to be a simple powder room renovation has turned into the last straw for one Vancouver homebuilder. He says he's had enough when it comes to the red tape of the development and permit processes with city hall. As Aaron McArthur reports, he's not the only one frustrated with the bureaucracy – Jul 5, 2023

The paperwork needed to do a bathroom renovation in Vancouver is extensive and expensive, according to a local homebuilder.

Avi Barzelai, a licensed residential builder and renovator based out of East Vancouver, highlighted the process in a Twitter thread that’s gone viral.

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“Working with the City of Vancouver is the absolute worst part of my job, by far,” Barzelai, who operates Barzelai Building, told Global News in an interview Wednesday. “I deal with clients, I deal with trades, I deal with a lot of headaches. It’s nothing personal to the (city) staff, it’s the system. The system is broken.“

Barzelai said there are 10 steps that must be met before any work can even begin.

These steps include reports, inspections, permits, and surveys which, at minimum, will cost close to $10,000 he said.

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B.C. speeds up housing development process

The process starts with a $2,000 survey as part of a building permit application, which is required before any home renovation project, no matter how big or small the project is.

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Next is a $1,500 energy advisor and report, which is required for any project that costs more than $20,000 in total, and also includes a blower door test. A blower door test to identify unintentional air leakages in the home.

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Barzelai said after that is a hazardous materials report ($750), an arborist report ($750), a schedule from a structural engineer ($750), renovation drawings ($2,000), electrical, plumbing and HVAC permits ($1,000 total), and inspections.

This would be the process for both renovating an existing bathroom or adding a brand new one to a home, he said.

Further delaying projects, the homebuilder said, contractors still have to wait for the City of Vancouver to process the applications.

“We got together all the paperwork (done and sent) in around two to three weeks,“ he said. “(City staff) actually take longer to review the application than it takes to create it, which logically doesn’t make any sense.”

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‘Cut red tape’: B.C. working to build more homes, faster in selected communities

In an email, the city said much of what Barzelai says he was asked to provide isn’t necessary and staff are happy to work with the builder and home owner.

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City councillors are equally frustrated with the pace of changes in permitting. Council’s ABC majority was elected on promises of cutting red tape for permits, and says progress is being made.

“We’ve also set some 3-3-3-1 permitting target timelines, and what that is doing is that’s going to put targets for staff to meet in terms of permit delivery,” ABC Coun. Peter Meiszner said.

Despite city council’s ambition on this file, builders say there isn’t much progress being made on the ground, where permitting can take sometimes longer than the construction iteslf.

“The goal here should not be to find ways to say no, the goal here should be to find ways to say yes, and to try to expedite things in as effective, timely and efficient a manner as possible,” Homebuilders Association of Vancouver CEO Ron Rapp said.

Barzelai said he’ll get the bathroom job done eventually, though he wonders exactly how much red tape he’ll have to cut through when he starts his next job.

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