Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Langley City Needs Provincial and Federal Action to Increase Housing Supply

Last year, the provincial government introduced the "Housing Supply Act," which enabled the province to set the number of new housing units that the province believes should be built in a municipality over a period of time. They rolled out the housing targets to the first batch of municipalities last year and are now rolling out targets to another 20 municipalities, including Langley City. Eventually, all municipalities in Metro Vancouver will have provincially imposed housing targets.

One of the main reasons for imposing these targets is to get some municipalities to streamline their development approval processes; I've heard horror stories about how it can take years to get a building permit in some municipalities. In Langley City, our development process is speedy and measured in months. However, I've noticed a slowdown in the number of development applications we've received lately.

When I asked some home builders why there has been a slowdown, they told me that interest rates, labour costs, and supply costs are the primary drivers for their slowdown.

I asked them about what government programs have been helpful. They pointed to the federal government's Apartment Construction Loan Program, which provides low-cost financing for rental apartment projects where at least 20% of housing units are priced to what a typical working household could afford. Continuing to make improvements and increasing funding for this program will enable more housing to be built.

BC Housing is the primary funder for traditional affordable housing projects, but it is known that they can be slow. For example, Langley City approved 981 units of seniors-focused affordable housing in 2021 for the Langley Lions Housing Society. It is now 2024, and phase one of the project has just restarted construction. The province must double down on efforts to speed up BC Housing projects.

Langley Lions Housing Society lots sit empty as it waits for phase two funding from BC Housing. Phase one is under construction in the background.

The Langley Regional Airport has out-of-date federal regulations that impose an artificial 12- to 15-storey high limit within most of Langley City, including near SkyTrain stations. We've been talking to the federal government, including going to Ottawa last week, to ask them to remove this artificial limit around our transit-oriented development areas.

Access to low-cost construction financing, slow BC Housing projects, and the Langely Airport's out-of-date high limit restrict housing construction in Langley City.

While municipalities don't build housing, Langley City will continue to do its part to ensure the speedy processing of building applications to ensure people have a place to call home. We will also continue to advocate and partner with the federal and provincial governments to reduce the barriers in our community and enable more housing to be built faster.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New Development Application Notification Process Live in Langley City

New Langley City Development Application Sign

If you've been around town lately, you'll likely have seen more Development Application signs on properties. It isn't that there has suddenly been an influx of development applications but that Langley City has updated how we let people know about development proposals.

Until recently, the City notified people about a proposed development when the application was heading to a public hearing. People would get about two weeks' notice. The public hearing was near the end of the City's development approval process.

Our new notification process, which I recently posted that Council approved, starts within 30 days of the City receiving a development proposal.

This process has now gone live.

You'll notice a few things about the new development proposal signs besides the fact that they are being posted longer.

They now have:

  • A rendering of the proposal project
  • Contact information for the City and the applicant
  • A QR code and information about accessing Langley City's Development Application Portal
  • Information about when 1st and 2nd Reading of the rezoning/development permit will occur

Langley City's Development Application Portal has information on all active development proposals. On the portal, you can find the current status of proposals, contact information, and the plans and drawings for each proposal.

Langley City Council is striving to provide more information to people in our community that is easy for them to access and understand.

As the provincial government has made public hearings for residential development proposals illegal, we also hope that people will contact City staff and development applicants with their questions, suggestions, or concerns, as this information is now readily available. I expect that folks' questions will be addressed promptly. Because we now provide notice and contact information earlier in the development process, there is a higher chance of being able to address feedback and concerns in the design. I know that Council will be monitoring this.

For transparency, many people ask for development proposals to have a lower density than proposed. If a project is consistent with the density envisioned in our City's Official Community Plan, there is a very low likelihood that the City would recommend lowering the density of a proposal.

This new process will provide more visibility around development applications in our community and allow people more opportunities to get their questions answered or provide feedback to the development applicant or City staff. It will not impact the processing time of development applications in Langley City, and because public hearings are now illegal, it may speed up the processing time by a few weeks.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Langley City Council Approves Committees' 2024 Work Plans

Langley City has around a half dozen committees and task groups. City Council sets up some of these committees and groups to allow them to dive deeper into topics and make recommendations to Council. Council can also delegate to them to perform certain activities, such as the Earth Day event.

Our committees and task groups generally have community members who volunteer their time to serve on them. Their agendas and minutes are on the City's website, and their meetings are open for anyone to attend to listen in.

Council must approve all committee and task group work plans annually. On April 8th, Langley City Council approved the following annual 2024 works plans.

Arts, Recreation, Culture and Heritage Committee

  • Facilitate a tile mural on the Rotary Centennial Park washroom building
  • Name the road into Rotary Centennial Park
  • Plan for 2025 Langley City Film Festival
  • Create a Call for Artists and select a Glover Road gateway sculpture
  • Plan and hold the 2nd Annual Music and Art in City Park
  • Install a plaque or interpretive sign in Douglas Park about James Douglas and the Black community in British Columbia

Environmental Sustainability Committee

  • Host Earth Day event
  • Provide feedback on the new Urban Forest Management Strategy and Sustainability Charter
  • Host a Repair-it CafĂ©
  • Support a Bat-Friendly Community with "Bat Week" in the fall

Socio-Cultural Economic Development Advisory Committee

  • Create an Economic Development Strategy
  • Create a Social, Cultural and Economic Development Strategic Framework
  • Update Economic Development Website for Langley City
  • Set up a communication framework to allow for the community and committee to stay updated and provide feedback on social-cultural economic work plan items

Please follow the links to each committee's work plan documents for more information.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Langley City Ottawa Mission: Day 3

We brought some of the Metro Vancouver rain over to Ottawa today.

It is our final meeting day for Langley City Council's first mission to Ottawa. We had productive meetings yesterday, including on removing the height limits around Willowbrook Mall. This old-fashioned federal regulation for the Langley Regional Airport limits transit-oriented development around SkyTrain.

Langley City's Performing Arts and Cultural Centre was well received, and we were directed to some potential funding options.

We were told to resubmit our Housing Accelerator Funding, as the federal government has unlocked more funding through its new budget.

We just met with some members of the Shadow Cabinet of the Conservative Party over a working lunch.

Later, we will talk with folks at the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship about the need for more supports and services for newcomers in Langley City.

Another productive day! We will be flying back home tomorrow.