Attention Councils and Boards: Response Sought to Building Code & Community Charter Changes

The Province of B.C. has informed UBCM that it intends to implement a uniform building code and amend the Community Charter to eliminate local government concurrent authority in this area. The Province has invited UBCM to join an advisory group to review the proposed legislative changes on the condition that UBCM signs a confidentiality agreement prior to any discussions. UBCM is seeking membership response on the course of action proposed by the Province.

In response to a letter received from Minister Coleman, UBCM President Rhona Martin has indicated that UBCM is prepared to enter into consultations on a uniform building code, provided there is an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and the ability to influence the development of the legislation. UBCM has also indicated that we are unwilling to sign the confidentiality agreement required to participate in the Modernization Advisory Group since it would remove UBCM's ability to consult with the Executive or membership at this time. UBCM believes that further work is required to understand the full implications of the proposed legislative changes - such as the impact on public safety - before they are implemented.

The Province has been seeking to move to a uniform building code for almost ten years. The issue has also been the subject of two UBCM policy papers in 2007 and 2012. In the current system local governments can enact bylaws that meet or exceed building code standards, allowing for customization of standards appropriate to the needs particular to a community or region. For example, following the Kelowna Wildfire in 2003, local governments in the region adjusted their building codes to prohibit use of building materials like cedar roofs that are highly flammable. The new proposal would appear to eliminate the ability of local governments to make such customizations in the future.

Under a uniform Building Code the Province is to have sole authority for the B.C. Building Code and regulations. Local government us expected to eliminate all technical building requirements in its bylaws that are inconsistent with the Code. The Province will determine what new building products and technical requirements will be acceptable across the province. Local government building officials will also be required to meet mandatory Provincial qualification requirements to ensure consistent Code interpretation and compliance.

A two-year transition period has been proposed to give local governments time to amend its bylaws and a four-year transition period has been proposed to ensure that building inspection staff meet the mandatory Provincial training qualifications. The Province has indicated that the changes will apply to the Community Charter, but not to the City of Vancouver Charter.

UBCM is looking for local government response on the course of action proposed by the Province. Questions or comments should be directed to Ken Vance, Senior Policy Advisor.

Additional information on the changes proposed to the building regulatory system are available on the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Natural Gas website.

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