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B.C. says Delta not making 'expected' progress to meet housing target

City reports 242 occupancy permits issued in first six months under housing order, but Housing Ministry says actual number less than half that amount
The City of Delta says it added 242 net new housing units in the first six months after being issued a provincial order requiring 3,607 new homes be built in the community by Sept. 30, 2028. B.C.'s Housing Ministry, however, says the number of new homes completed in that time was less than half what the city reported. (Black Press Media file photo)

Delta is falling behind in creating new housing and could face "compliance measures" if it fails to meet the first of its five annual provincially-mandated housing targets this fall.

That's according to B.C.'s Ministry of Housing, which on Wednesday (June 26) released the six-month progress updates from the first 10 cities selected for housing targets last September, as well as the five-year targets for the second cohort of communities announced back in April.

So far, the province says, more than 4,000 net new homes have been built between Victoria, Port Moody, North Vancouver District, Kamloops, Saanich, Abbotsford, Vancouver, Delta, West Vancouver and Oak Bay.

And while the ministry applauded the efforts of some cities, specifically highlighting Victoria (which has already built 114 per cent of the 659 units required by Sept. 30) and Port Moody (90 per cent of the 231 units mandated under its year-one housing target), it said some — including Delta — are "not making as much progress as expected."

"These municipalities (Delta, Oak Bay and West Vancouver) are encouraged to expedite their processes and comply with the new requirements to ensure that housing is being built where it’s needed," reads a ministry press release.

"Compliance measures may be taken if satisfactory progress is not made by the time annual progress reports are made, to ensure that municipalities are taking action to build homes for people as quickly as possible."

Delta is obliged to add 3,607 net new housing units (completed homes, as measured by occupancy permits issued minus any units demolished) by Sept. 30, 2028. That target, set under a ministerial order that came into effect Oct. 1, 2023, represents 75 per cent of the identified housing need in Delta.

The order also sets annual cumulative benchmarks the city must meet along the way and requires the city report on its progress in meeting the housing target six months after the order took effect, then again six months after that before switching to an annual reporting schedule.

The first six-month report, which was received by Delta council on May 6, showed 242 occupancy permits were issued in the city from Oct. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 — 47 per cent of the 514 new homes required by the end of September.

An accompanying report by city staff notes that “strong efforts” were made towards approving projects at all stages of development, including granting third reading for 990 housing units and final reading for 67, plus issuing development permits for 211 units and building permits for another 206.

However, Delta's numbers were calculated using a different metric than that set out by the ministry, and by the province's count the number of newly-completed homes in the city over those six months was substantially lower.

A backgrounder accompanying Wednesday's announcement by the province shows Delta is only 22 per cent of the way to meeting its year one target — 114 of 514 completed homes, less than half of what was reported by the city.

This figure drops Delta from the middle of the pack to the bottom third, behind seventh-place Vancouver (31 per cent of year-one target achieved) and ahead of West Vancouver (18 per cent) and Oak Bay (12.5 per cent).

According to the report to council on May 6, city staff chose a different way to calculate the number of new homes because they took issue with some aspects of the reporting process — notably the province’s reliance on occupancy permits as a measure of new housing created and problems with the reporting form itself.

The report notes that the issuance of occupancy permits relies on developers’ timelines for construction, which are outside of the city’s control.

“Given that the housing target is based on occupancy permits issued, it is not certain that any of the projects in the council approval or permit issuance stages will reach the occupancy stage within the five-year Housing Target Order timeframe in order to be counted,” the report states.

It goes on to say that in the past, market conditions encouraged developers to proceed through the development approvals, building permit and construction process as quickly as possible, but rising interest rates and construction costs have caused many to put projects at all stages of approval on hold for extended periods of time as they wait for the economics to improve.

Meanwhile, the form the city must fill out for the province requires the number of demolition permits issued over the reporting period be deducted from the number of occupancy permits issued, even though they may relate to different projects.

“Demolition permits represent the start of a development, and it can be years before an occupancy permit is issued for the project,” the report sates. “It is expected that as the pace of development increases in Delta, so will the number of demolition permits issued; however, under the Housing Target Order and reporting format, the city cannot count new construction units until they are completed and ready for occupancy.”

In order to offer what the city deemed a more accurate reflection of the number of new units created, staff calculated the total reported to the Housing Ministry by subtracting units removed under a demolition permit from units achieved under an occupancy permit on a project-by-project basis.

At its May 6 meeting, council endorsed a staff recommendation that Mayor George Harvie write to Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and ask that the ministry simplify the reporting requirements to more accurately depict development and building activity.

Of the 3,607 net new housing units to be built in Delta and occupied by Sept. 30, 2028, provincial guidelines say the bulk of them (2,021) should be studio or one-bedroom, while 682 should be two-bedroom and 904 three bedrooms or more.

As well, more than half of the new units (2,030) must be rentals — 830 let at below-market rates, and 95 designated as supportive rental units.

Annual cumulative benchmarks set out in the provincial order are:

• 514 net new units by Sept. 30, 2024;

• 1,098 by Sept. 30, 2025;

• 1,785 by Sept. 30, 2026;

• 2,609 by Sept. 30, 2027; and

• 3.607 by Sept. 30, 2028.

More to come...

James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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