Embrace the Future: Development Panel and Cost of Business Survey

After years of frustration over the laborious development application process, Graeme Silvera decided to do something about it.

“Every time I wanted to submit a new development, I had to visit each municipality. I waited in line, met a clerk, got a photocopy of a bylaw, and so on and so forth. You can't just go in the computer and find out permits, you had to go in person. That’s why we invented the survey.”

Started in 2000, the purpose of the Cost of Business Survey is to create greater transparency around municipal development fees and the approval periods across the different municipalities in Lower Mainland.

“In the past 17 years, there’s been a dramatic shift and a transformative force in the market on two fronts. The first is the explosive surge of residential value, and the second is the shift towards mixed-use products, which is what we saw in this year’s Pacific Northwest Real Estate Challenge.”

Silvera, who is the VP of Retail Operations at Ivanhoe Cambridge, shared that there are no longer stand-alone buildings. There must be two to three uses required to make the economics work. In addition, affordability issues never seen before in previous generations have come centre focus. 


The Future

As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Vancouver is a tech savvy city, and leading the market in a number of ways.

“Generally we are in positive trajectory, but the construction and development industry has been relatively slow to adopt and embrace new tech. This includes our municipal partners on whom we rely on development.”

Silvera believes there are better ways of doing business that would influence supply, but only if we start thinking outside of the box.

“Why can’t we pursue an application that allows every municipality to pay online? Why can’t I see the building permit requirements through my computer? Why can’t I track the status of my permit? I can do it with Fedex!”

Despite the advancing architectural profession, the industry still uses the same tactics as in 1910. When submitting a development, Plan Checkers have to physically look at the roller drawings to check code compliance. 


Silvera hopes to create more progressive municipalities that can use survey data as a benchmark to establish competitive fees and address bottlenecks necessary to attract new real estate investment.

Do you think municipalities, developers, and the communities would benefit from having a faster, more technically-savvy approach to the permit process? Tweet @naiopvancouver and let us know! 

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