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BC Hydro to blame for laneway home permit delays: Burnaby mayor

Mayor Mike Hurley says most of the city's laneway housing applications are stalled in the BC Hydro design review stage.
The City of Burnaby introduced laneway housing in September 2023, but progress is slower than expected.

Laneway homes have been legal in Burnaby since September, but Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley is concerned BC Hydro is hampering their development.

Hurley said, while the city is seeing a great interest in laneway homes, there are delays in the permitting process on BC Hydro’s side.

The city had 58 applications for laneway permits in review and issued four building permits for laneway homes as of Feb. 14, according to a staff report to the planning and development committee.

Hurley told the Burnaby NOW there’s now about 130 total applications for laneway homes in the pipeline, but about 80 per cent of them (around 100) are waiting for BC Hydro’s design reviews.

“We need their designs so that we can complete our work; we can get (the permits) out really quickly once those designs are done,” Hurley said.

He told the committee the city won’t take the blame.

“I’m not going to sit back and take this one on the chin,” Hurley said.

“It’s going to be right back on the province (as the owner and sole shareholder of BC Hydro) to say, ‘You’re the ones holding this up,’” he added.

“We always get accused of being the holdup,” he told the NOW, adding: “I think the premier, and others, give comments that cities are taking too long to put things through the process … We just want people to know where the holdup really is.”

BC Hydro told the NOW the number of connection requests has “increased significantly in the past few years due to the expansion of provincial and municipal electrification programs, population growth and the continued boom in new residential construction.”

BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino said the average completion time for connections requiring design work is 4.5 months, including the time required for customers to submit all pre-requisite project information needed to start the design.

“This is something we are working closely with municipalities, like Burnaby, to improve,” he said in an emailed statement.

Interest in laneway homes 'on a hold': mayor

Hurley said the city thought there might be more applications for laneway homes in the first year of the program, but suggested new provincial legislation, which will allow up to six homes on previously single-family lots, may have changed homeowners’ plans.

“Perhaps they could build a four-plex or a six-plex instead of adding a laneway,” the mayor said. “I think the provincial legislation has put it on a hold a little bit until people can see what they can actually do on their properties.”

Hurley recommended any homeowners interested in building a laneway home, or a four-plex or six-plex, to “get in line with BC Hydro – right away.”