Mostly criticism, but a few kudos - that's how the biggest name in the B.C. housing market is reacting to the way the City of Coquitlam has dealt with its unprecedented growth in the last two years.
Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association president and CEO Peter Simpson told The NOW Tuesday his members have faced continual delays and other red tape that have held up projects across the city.
"There are problems there - we've had a lot of our members express concerns, and not just with one department either," Simpson said.
"There's enough pieces in the blame pie to go around."
Simpson's comments came one day after council in committee was briefed on how the city's building permits division is trying to work through a backlog of staff vacancies and inefficient practices that have left some developers waiting for their projects to receive the necessary approvals.
A city staff report notes 2012 is shaping up to be record-breaking in terms of building permit activity. As a result, application volumes have increased dramatically, resulting in longer queues, turnaround times and increased telephone and counter activity.
"It had become frustrating for our members," Simpson said.
"And of course, the economy is in a precarious position right now with the housing market, so we need to find solutions. We don't need to be dealing with any other problems."
The number of building and plumbing permits issued by the city has risen exponentially since 2006, jumping from 1,049 to 2,563 in a five-year span. The 2012 numbers are slated to increase even further, with projections pegged at 2,992 this year.
"We're aware of these concerns," said Jim McIntyre, the city's manager of planning and development. "We are dealing with them and we will continue to deal with them. We're not there yet. There's still room for improvement, but we will persist in resolving them."
According to staff analysis, however, the entire region seems to be facing similar backlogs. A city survey of 10 other Metro Vancouver municipalities showed Coquitlam's turnaround times to be right in the middle of the pack.
The average turnaround for a permit for a single-family home in the city was pegged at between four and five weeks. Of the 10 municipalities examined, Chilliwack and the Sunshine Coast came in with the best times at two to three weeks. Burnaby, with an average 10-week turnaround time, was noted as the worst.
City staff laid out three sets of action plans to mitigate those concerns, broken down into immediate, intermediate and long-term actions. Some of the immediate processes include recruiting more staff, using more rigorous pre-screening tests for larger developments and asking staff to work more overtime.
"The fact that Coquitlam is willing to talk with us to try to mitigate some of the concerns that we have is a positive thing," Simpson said. "This is the kind of relationship we want to have with all municipalities.
"The industry and the city, we are, in fact, partners in progress and we need to find ways to work more closely together and to make it easier for builders and developers to get their projects through the system."