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Red-tape reduction tops housing as biggest Vancouver business concern

Red-tape reduction tops housing as biggest Vancouver business concern
A pile of file folders await a bureaucrat attention.

A Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) survey released today highlighted what its members view as the most important business issues in this fall's municipal elections across the region. 

It also revealed that almost two-thirds of those surveyed have considered relocating businesses outside the region because it is simply getting too expensive to operate in Metro Vancouver. 

The GVBOT surveyed 180 members between April 4 and April 22 and asked them to list their three top issues in the 2022 civic elections. 

Topping the responses was permitting, licensing and red-tape reduction, as 50 per cent of those surveyed said they saw that issue as a significant concern.

Other top concerns cited by respondents included:
• housing (49 per cent);
• public safety and crime (44 per cent);
• economic and general business-friendly policies (44 per cent);
• taxes (35 per cent);
• homelessness (33 per cent); and 
• public transportation (29 per cent).

What jumped out from that list for GVBOT CEO Bridgitte Anderson was how high crime and safety ranked. The issue prompted Vancouver city council to hear from residents specifically on that issue at council meetings on April 28 and May 10.

"[Crime and safety] is ranking higher than it ever has before, which is not surprising, given the kind of coverage that we've heard about, and what we're hearing from police, and what we're hearing from, especially, small businesses, right at their doorstep, in downtown Vancouver," she said. 

The last time the GVBOT did a comprehensive survey of members on municipal issues was before the 2018 municipal elections, Anderson said. She has since noticed an increase in concern about crime from her many conversations with members.

Concern about permitting delays has led developers, such as Reliance Properties CEO Jon Stovell to urge B.C. Attorney General David Eby to step in and legislate that municipalities must reduce permit-approval times.

Eby has not ruled out that suggestion.

“If we don’t see our collaborative approach with municipalities showing results, we may have to take other measures,” he told BIV in April. 

In the GVBOT survey, 47 per cent of respondents said that Eby should legislate to ensure that municipalities approve affordable-housing projects. Another 32 per cent said that the province should do more to influence municipal decisions but legislating to intervene if cities reject affordable-housing projects is too heavy-handed. The remaining 21 per cent said that they were not in favour of the province stepping into civic land-use decisions.

"The business community wants the problem solved," Anderson said.

"They want to have more housing supply to be able to meet the demands, so that they can retain and attract talent to a region where, really, that is one of the most challenging problems."

Indeed, 83 per cent of those surveyed said that the region's high cost of living has had an effect on being able to hire staff. Another 71 per cent of respondents said that they believe the region's quality of life and affordability will diminish in the next five years.

Of those surveyed, 71 per cent either strongly, or somewhat support the region hosting an Indigenous-led bid for Vancouver to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Respondents tended to have a dim view of how well their municipal government representatives are planning for the future. Only 13 per cent of them thought that their representatives were suitably planning for the housing, infrastructure and services growth required to meet the needs of the growing population. Another 16 per cent were unsure, while 72 per cent said they did not think that the municipal politicians were sufficiently forward thinking.

"The business community is saying, 'Make it easier to do business in the region, find more coordination, make it simpler, and reduce the cost that businesses are facing," Anderson said.

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