It seemed simple enough. Buy a couple of houses with big lots, sever it into four lots, and build a couple more houses with purpose-built second suites in them. Unfortunately it was a bit trickier than that.
This article outlines a bit of the building permit application process after we got approvals from the City of St.Catharines to do a land severance.
The actual approvals for our land severance proposal from the city didn’t take long (around three months), but the application to build took much longer (nearly eight).
The reasons for this delay were numerous, all causing a bottleneck with the city. I’ll outline a few of them here so that these are things you can consider (and plan for) when you move forward to do your own small-scale development.
Most A lenders don’t have a good understanding of land severances, and if you have existing properties you are mortgaging, you will require a “partial discharge” to reassess the mortgage.
They may see a land severance as taking value away. It’s important to ensure value is enhanced on existing properties to minimize impact here. Renovations are a good way to mitigate a reduction in overall property value.
When you have two adjacent properties, it is ideal to have them on separate titles. When you sever it to produce 2 new parcels, the existing parcels can “merge” together legally as a single lot.
This is not ideal should you decide to sell the properties separately later on. And the value would be higher for the properties on separate lots. Planning for this up front will save you a lot of time later on.
For items 1 and 2, you need this sorted out before you can get the severance to finalize, which in turn affects your ability to apply for a building permit.
3. Permit Submission Package
Ensure that your permit application to build is complete to avoid delays. It’s not fun when the city staff turns you away because you didn’t have the right paperwork. For new builds, you will need the following (find out exactly what is needed for your specific city):
A Surveyor who prepared total lot areas, total building areas, and lot coverage.
A Designer or Architect with all necessary detailed drawings and specifications
A Lumber supplier who has provided details from a professional Engineer for the structural layout (floor, wall and roof layouts)
We had a lot of challenges with our Designer, mostly having to do with communication. Make sure you work with someone that will provide proper channels of communication.
Inevitably, there will be revision requests from the city. Ensure that your Designer or Architect is ready to make these adjustments in a timely manner as soon as the city sends them back. There is generally no mandated response time once you resubmit, and it can go to the bottom of the “to be reviewed” pile.
Many of these issue arose because we took two adjacent lots on the corner of a large street, and divided them in half to create two brand new lots fronting the side street.
The process would have been a lot more simple if we took one corner lot and divided it into two. This is a strategy I will discuss in a future post.
In the meantime, now that we got the building permit, the real fun begins! I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.