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Surrey guarantees approval timelines
Continuous process improvement since 2010
One of the major bottlenecks to building more badly needed housing in the city of Vancouver is the long time it takes to get approval. The MacPhail Report recommended setting guaranteed timelines for approval.
Surrey launched an initiative in 2021 to provide guaranteed timelines for permitting and rezoning, setting targets that were “bold but not unreasonable.” City staff provide a quarterly update to council. The table above is taken from the February 2023 update. The update also describes what staff are working on to improve times further.
A presentation at the Union of BC Municipalities summit in April 2023 describes Surrey’s initiative as based on previous process-improvement work, which had been ongoing since 2010. It sounds like they started downstream and worked backwards: “Started in building inspections, then building permits, now moving to planning application review improvements.”
In the city of Vancouver, the ABC majority is aiming for “3-3-3-1” targets. To be honest, I think if Vancouver can match Surrey’s targets, that would be huge progress.
Home renovations - 3 days
Single-detached houses and townhouses - 3 weeks
Multi-family and mid-rise housing (if “professionally designed” with no rezoning required) - 3 months
High-rise projects - 1 year
Surrey staff report recommending guaranteed timelines, October 2021. Includes discussion of previous process-improvement work. Appendix II is the MacPhail Report. Appendix III comments on the recommendations in the MacPhail Report.
City of Surrey gives itself guaranteed timelines to approve building permits. Kenneth Chan in the Daily Hive, October 2021.
Surrey guarantees rezoning, building permit timelines. Western Investor, November 2021. “The City of Surrey is believed to be the first municipality in Metro Vancouver to begin providing guaranteed timelines for building permits and rezoning applications.”
Slides from presentation on Surrey’s guaranteed timelines at the UBCM summit, April 2023. A short video: continuous incremental improvement, putting a spotlight on the issue, reducing scope, pre-application process. All presentations from the summit.
ABC platform, October 2022. For the “3-3-3-1” target approval times, see the “Market Housing” section.