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City’s Permit Improvement Program delivers results

Vancouver is in the midst of a housing crisis–permitting delays have had a significant impact on both housing supply and our local economy.

Mayor Ken Sim

February 14 2023 –

Anyone in Vancouver looking for a building permit can now apply, pay, and receive the permit electronically through the Electronic Plan (ePlan). This latest update is just one example of our Permitting Improvement Program (PIP) at work. 

“Vancouver is in the midst of a housing crisis–permitting delays have had a significant impact on both housing supply and our local economy,” said Mayor Ken Sim. “The updates put forward today are an important first step towards cutting permit wait times for Vancouver residents and businesses. We are excited about these changes and what they will mean for the future of our city.”
Designed to digitally transform and streamline the permitting process, PIP has also resulted in:

  • Plans for houses, duplexes, and laneways can now be checked in as little as 2 1/2 weeks, saving over 9 weeks
  • Updated inspection review processes significantly reduce the need for applicants to address/redo previously unpermitted work, unless it is a life-safety concern
  • The Tenant Improvement Program provides a dedicated building permit review stream for office tenants in eligible commercial buildings, allowing them to receive a permit in as little as 2 weeks

Increased transparency 

Staff continue exploring technology to provide more real-time permitting performance and are looking to establish an external advisory panel for input on additional proposed improvements.

Education and support for applicants

Nearly 45% of all low-density housing permit applications submitted in 2021 were incomplete, which leads to delays in issuing permits.

“We are looking at providing education and in-person support for those who need assistance in submitting applications,” said Andrea Law, general manager, Development, Buildings, and Licensing. “In addition, we are exploring technical solutions that will allow applicants to perform their own completeness checks prior to submitting their application."

Business licence online application pilot 

On February 22, we are launching a pilot to allow home-based businesses to apply, track, pay, and receive their business licence electronically. Providing a central, online source of information for applicants frees up staff time and allows applicants to track their applications in real time, which will help them plan more effectively. 

Upon completion of the pilot, we will expand the online application form to all business categories later this spring.

Ongoing work and next steps 

To further streamline the permit process, we continues to review opportunities, including:

  • Simplifying conditions for development permits
  • Simplifying the review process for renovation permits
  • Reducing both the number of steps and staff required to review applications 
  • Improving letters to applicants so they easily understand items they need to address/rectify before a permit can be issued

Get more information and a complete list of actions to help improve the permitting process.