Changes to Local Government Authorities
The Province and some municipalities, developers and institutions are convinced there are too many barriers in the way of housing proposals and the increased supply of housing and they believe that Public Hearings are one of these barriers. As a result, the Province is amending legislation to change the requirement for Municipalities to hold Public Hearings. The amendments to the Local Government Act include:
Removing the default requirement for local governments to hold public hearings for zoning bylaw amendments that are consistent with the official community plan; and
Enabling local government to delegate decisions on minor development variance permits to staff.
Their rationale is that “these changes will support local governments to move forward more efficiently on developments, bypassing barriers and speeding up housing approvals.”
The West Bay Residents Association agrees that the public hearing process is flawed in many ways. However, we are even more concerned now with how and when the public will have any opportunity for meaningful input into new development proposals coming into their community. It is not enough to be able to send in written comments to council. It is important that community members have the opportunity to attend in person and hear the input and discussion put forth by other community members.
This is already decided and going forward but is not in place as yet and will be at the discretion of each local government, whether they opt to hold a public hearing or not. Esquimalt has not yet changed their approach.
Housing Permit Approvals
B.C.’s Attorney General, David Eby, recently advised that the government is considering introducing legislation and regulatory changes that could take the final decision-making authority for housing permit approvals way from Local governments.
He stated that local government is not approving enough housing to meet B.C.’s population growth and that too many housing development proposals become stalled at the permit approval stage.
He clarified, “This is not about taking away power from B.C.’s municipalities. This is about empowering them to bypass some of the obstacles — such as the permit approval stage — that prevent housing from being built in the first place. Each community has its own unique needs when it comes to delivering housing… Ultimately, we support municipalities’ ability to determine what the housing will look like — but not whether the housing gets built.”
The province is working with local governments about ways to speed up these processes but ultimately he believes that some minimum standards for municipalities will need to be prescribed.
Any changes will take place in the fall of 2022.