The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

July 16, 2015 08:30 ET

The Fraser Institute: District of North Vancouver, Vancouver Lead the Lower Mainland in Red Tape for New Residential Development

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - July 16, 2015) - The District of North Vancouver and the City of Vancouver are the most regulated municipalities in the Lower Mainland and consequently the most difficult in which to build new housing, according to a survey of homebuilders released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian policy think-tank.

"A large body of research has shown that onerous regulation stunts the homebuilding process and contributes to rising home prices. With housing affordability being a major issue in Metro Vancouver, the results of this survey indicate that red tape at some Lower Mainland city halls is deterring development and likely contributing to the affordability problem," said Kenneth Green, Fraser Institute senior director of energy and natural resources.

New Homes and Red Tape: Residential Land-Use Regulation in BC's Lower Mainland, compares jurisdictions across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley on several categories of red tape (construction approval times, timeline uncertainty, regulatory costs and fees, rezoning prevalence and the effect council and community groups have on development) based on the experiences and opinions of industry professionals.

In an aggregate ranking of 10 municipalities (municipalities that garnered sufficient numbers of survey responses), the District of North Vancouver comes out as the most regulated municipality earning low marks in construction approval times (16.1 months compared to the Lower Mainland average of 11.2 months) and in the percentage of residential development requiring rezoning (95 per cent versus an average of 68 per cent).

The City of Vancouver ranks worse than the Lower Mainland average on all indicators, except in rezoning requirements, and scores particularly poorly with regard to regulatory costs and fees. The study finds that, to get approval for construction, a typical residential developer in Vancouver spends $38,333 per individual dwelling unit (30 percent more than the region-wide average) before a shovel even hits the ground.

Conversely, in Burnaby - which shares a border with Vancouver -homebuilders report an average of just $17,542 in costs and fees despite the fact that both cities have no choice but to build 'up' to grow.

"There's a school of thought out there that higher costs and fees are associated with greenfield development. In other words, municipal governments require more money to service the new areas of development and to build new infrastructure. We found no evidence of that in our survey," Green said.

"Instead, it appears that we're seeing a form of NIMBYism where council and community opposition to residential development is strongest in municipalities with higher dwelling values - like on the North Shore and in Vancouver. That doesn't bode well for housing affordability in the region."

The City of Abbotsford finished as the least-regulated municipality, followed by Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey.

The complete survey is available as free PDF download at

*Lower Mainland Regulation Rankings (from least regulated to most regulated):

  1. Abbotsford
  2. Burnaby
  3. Coquitlam
  4. Surrey
  5. Richmond
  6. Maple Ridge
  7. Langley Township
  8. City of North Vancouver
  9. Vancouver
  10. District of North Vancouver
* This aggregate index only includes municipalities that garnered sufficient numbers of survey responses

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Dr. Kenneth P. Green
    Senior Director, Natural Resource Studies
    Fraser Institute

    For interviews with Dr. Green, please contact:
    Aanand Radia
    Media Relations Specialist, Fraser Institute
    (416) 363-6575 Ext. 238