Vancouver’s Bizarre Home Construction Experience: Approval Delays and Tree-Related Shock

Gary Gao, a real estate broker and builder in Greater Vancouver, shares insights on the challenges faced in daily life and home construction in Canada, particularly in dealing with various government agencies. In this article published on April 8, 2023, Gary discusses the lengthy approval process and peculiar demands encountered by homeowners and developers, highlighting the complexities of building in the region.

Living in Vancouver, one often encounters neighborhoods adorned with layers of lush trees, resembling the feeling of residing in a pristine forest. The aesthetic value and quality of life derived from years of good landscaping can enhance the real estate’s overall value. However, such beauty comes at a cost. Gary Gao, a Vancouver-based architectural designer, builder, and real estate broker, delves into the experiences and lessons learned from the Canadian home construction process and interactions with government authorities.

The first step for builders and homeowners in constructing a house involves submitting design drawings and relevant application documents to the municipal government for approval. Gary emphasizes the remarkably slow and unimaginably convoluted nature of the approval process, with delays of up to six months or more being the norm for simple single-family home approvals, accompanied by a myriad of peculiar demands.

In many cases, when purchasing a property, trees may exist on the land. These trees could be within the private property boundaries or on the adjacent public sidewalk, owned by the municipal government, whether publicly or privately owned. Cutting down these trees requires obtaining permits. For certain rare tree species, the government often mandates their preservation. Refusal to preserve these trees can lead to non-approval of building permits. In such cases, some homeowners opt to sell their properties, abandoning their construction plans.

One of Gary’s friends experienced a delay of one year in the approval process. When finally approved, the government unexpectedly demanded the preservation of a tree in the backyard. This tree had the potential to grow up to 70 feet high, located on the south side of the house. Preserving this tree would block sunlight from the entire south side of the house, with its leaves regularly clogging the roof gutters. Furthermore, the tree’s roots would eventually extend towards the house’s foundation, causing damage to the foundation and underground drainage pipes. For homeowners, this presents a significant dilemma. Even if the tree is within private property boundaries, the municipal government has the authority to require its preservation.

Unfortunately, each municipal government has its own bylaws – regulations and ordinances. Under these bylaws, government officials have the power to mandate homeowners to preserve specific trees. In extreme cases, due to the presence of a tree, homeowners may be unable to construct their ideal new home or realize their desired design. The government’s actions often prioritize political correctness, lack humaneness in handling matters, exude a sense of superiority and arrogance, and fail to recognize the interests and immediate needs of homeowners.

The challenges of approval delays are prevalent across various municipal governments. For instance, developers and homeowners sometimes sign purchase contracts with a condition that developers can apply for re-zoning to build high-rise structures. Despite community planning allowing such constructions in the area, the developer’s application may be pending approval after a decade and numerous meetings. Meanwhile, houses in the area deteriorate, leaving elderly residents in a dilemma, unable to sell their homes. In such cases, the government should cease repeatedly changing decisions, preventing people from moving into new homes on time and wasting property taxes and bank loan interest.

Preserving trees incurs additional costs, such as installing wooden fences to protect the trees, on-site supervision by botanists, and clearing the land around tree roots. In some cases, cutting down another tree is necessary to produce wood for constructing protective fences around the preserved tree. The cumbersome approval process and procedures impose dual losses on homeowners – both mentally and financially.

The government apparatus operates like a massive bureaucratic machine, with each employee working within their department regulations. However, interdepartmental constraints often hinder the building permit application process. Homeowners frequently find themselves in a vulnerable position, subject to procedures, systems, and bureaucracy. Gary recommends seeking assistance from experienced real estate agents when purchasing land or standalone houses with trees to minimize unforeseen troubles, headaches, and financial losses.

Gary concludes by sharing personal anecdotes, promising to delve deeper into these topics in future videos. He invites viewers to like his videos and subscribe to his channel for more insights. For those interested, he suggests seeking experienced brokers’ assistance when dealing with properties with trees to reduce potential troubles, headaches, and financial losses in the future.