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242 new homes built since Delta received housing target

Under provincial order, city must add 3,607 net new units by Sept. 30, 2028
The City of Delta added 242 net new units to its stock of housing 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.(Black Press Media file photo)

Six months after receiving its provincial housing target order, Delta is almost halfway to meeting its first-year benchmark.

Under a ministerial order that came into effect Oct. 1, 2023, the city 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. The target 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 province uses occupancy permits as the metric to determine “completed” homes.

The first six-month report, to be presented for council’s review on May 6 and released publicly May 2, shows the city issued 242 occupancy permits 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.

“We observed an increase in units since receiving the provincial order, reflecting projects that were already in the queue and a number of secondary suites brought into compliance,” the city’s general manager of development, Doreann Mayhew, said in a press release Thursday (May 2).

“As for our future targets, the city has made significant progress in establishing frameworks to support the addition of housing with our update to the OCP, which should start to make a difference in the next year or so.”

READ MORE: New Delta OCP passes third reading despite strong opposition at hearing

The new OCP, which was given third reading on April 22 and has been referred to Metro Vancouver and B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission for statutory reviews prior to final adoption requires, opens the door to greater density in most residential areas of the city, with provisions to encourage more townhouses and apartments and enable small-scale multi-unit housing on previously-designated single-detached and duplex lots.

As well, height maximums of six storeys will be set in three newly-designated “urban centres”: Ladner Village, around Tsawwassen Town Centre mall, and the North Delta Social Heart neighbourhood. The latter two will be open to buildings up to 24 storeys provided developers work a “significant community contribution” into their proposals.

Similarly, highrises up to 32 storeys will be allowed in some locations along the Scott Road Corridor, again provided developers offer a “significant community contribution.”

Thursday’s press release also pointed to the new Development Application Procedures Bylaw adopted last December, which the city says streamlines development and building application processes and expands “the digital management of applications to expedite processing times.”

SEE ALSO: New program aims to increase number of secondary suites in Delta

Mayhew said the city is starting to see more applications and interest as a result of these efforts, “but this progress is not reflected in the province’s latest reporting requirements.”

“We understand that this is a new process for the province and the city and our hope is that there will be room to refine the reporting requirements to better reflect the efforts to add housing in our community.”

The staff report to council points to several issues with 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.

Staff note that the issuance of occupancy permits relies on developers’ timelines for construction and 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 staff 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 their projects on hold for extended periods of time at all stages as they wait for more favourable market conditions.

SEE ALSO: B.C. tables house-flipping tax, to come into effect Jan. 1, 2025

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 a more accurate reflection of the number of new units created, city 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.

Staff recommend 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.

SEE ALSO: Surrey, Kelowna, Prince George added to B.C.’s housing target hit list

James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

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