Creating an environment that supports industry and City employees to do their best work in creating economic vibrancy and supporting quality of life.

Edmonton’s ability to retain, attract and grow businesses is affected by how the City regulates and provides service to businesses, property owners and potential investors. An efficient permitting, licensing, and regulatory process helps reduce barriers and encourage investment in our city, which is a key goal of both The City Plan and Edmonton’s Economic Action Plan

The City continues to advance a number of initiatives to encourage investment and make it easier for businesses and homeowners to navigate the zoning, permitting and licensing process and obtain what they need to renovate or build a home, or expand or start a new business.

The improvements seek to maintain a balance between providing timely service and ensuring that what is built is safe, meets appropriate regulatory standards, fits in with the surrounding neighbourhood, and respects community interests. 

Permit and Licensing Improvement (PLI) Initiative

The PLI initiative helps fulfill Action 1 of Edmonton’s Economic Action Plan: Leverage projects designed to improve Edmonton’s regulatory processes and reduce red tape so that we are agile.

The City's PLI Initiative is the 2022 winner of the Government of Alberta's Municipal Excellence Awards in the Red Tape Reduction category. Edmonton was also ranked as Number 1 out of 21 Canadian municipalities in residential permit processing through a recent CHBA Municipal Benchmarking Study.

About PLI

The PLI initiative aims to make the development permit, building permit, inspection, and business licensing processes easier.  Outcomes will benefit a broad range of stakeholders, but primarily focus on services for: 

  • Homeowners doing renovations
  • Contractors doing commercial or residential renovations
  • Business owners opening a new business or moving into a new space

In 2021, staff and industry workshops were held that generated over 400 improvement ideas that were captured, themed and used to inform the 2022 PLI work streams. Prioritization and scoping of these work streams were influenced by the goal of supporting the above customer groups, as well as addressing challenges identified by City staff and ensuring sequencing and alignment with the City’s other various service improvement work. 

While the 2022/23 PLI work streams are set, opportunities for public participation and engagement to help inform the implementation of each work stream will be assessed as part of implementation planning. This approach aligns with the City’s direction to use The City Plan as a guiding document, take advantage of previous engagement data to inform decision-making and be more efficient in our operations. 

It’s estimated that service improvements and timeline reductions implemented through PLI in 2022 and 2023 will save applicants $5.3 million and 67,600 days collectively each year. This is in addition to the 261,000 days and $4.6 million customers are already saving in delay costs annually based on demonstrated reductions in permit timelines from the red tape reduction efforts implemented between 2018 and 2021.

Permit and Licence Improvements

Development and Construction Application Processing Timelines

Establishing Timelines

Processing times have been established for the different permits, licences, and land development applications. Processing times are measured in calendar days from when a customer submits a complete application to when a decision is made.

These newly established processing times serve as a starting point to help build a more transparent, consistent and predictable experience for applicants so they can plan their construction projects and manage their risks accordingly.  

Completion Date: June 2022

Monitoring and Improving Timelines

The next step for the City was to develop tools to monitor and report back on its performance against the newly established timelines. Average processing times and the percentage of applications that were within the timelines are available at the permit processing times web page. 

The City aims to meet the established application processing times 75% of the time or more. The average processing times and performance against targets for all applications are updated regularly.

This information enables Edmontonians to plan for their projects accordingly. It is also used to help inform and guide the focus of the ongoing process, technology and regulatory adjustments needed to help standardize the delivery of development-related services and ensure we are consistently meeting the established timelines.  

Through this work, there may be an opportunity to refine and potentially reduce timelines for some services in the future. 

Completion Date: June 2023, updates ongoing

Enhance Home Improvement (HIP) Permitting

This project focuses on streamlining and enhancing technology to improve the Home Improvement Permits (HIP) customer experience. It will result in increased interactive guidance for novice applicants so they can more quickly and easily navigate the permit process, as well as streamlined workflows for staff.

Improvements include:

  • Creation of a residential permit guide digital tool to assist homeowners and contractors with determining what permits and associated requirements apply to their specific residential home improvement project
  • Revised home improvement permit web pages which lay out the permit and inspection processes as well as application requirements for each home improvement project type in an easy-to-follow step-by-step format so that customers know what to expect up-front
  • The ability for applicants to cancel and submit revisions for their HIP application online, addressing a common frustration for projects that may change after initial submission
  • Streamlined application workflows and adjusted digital services to provide a more convenient online application service experience

Completion Date: July 2023

Permitting Transformation for Businesses

Outreach and research shows that many business owners are unfamiliar with City processes, which creates a barrier to accessing what they need in a timely manner to open or expand a business. This project focuses on streamlining and enhancing technology to improve business owners’ and staff’s experience with the commercial permitting and licensing application process.

The work will better align the process to the applicant’s journey by basing it on the type of business the applicant wants to open or expand, or the type of renovations they need to undertake, rather than on the permits and/or regulatory requirements that are triggered.

Improvements will include: 

  • Creating an integrated application process across business licences, development permits, and building permits. Delivering one integrated process will avoid confusion and delays that can occur across the various city processes a business owner needs to navigate.
  • Developing an interactive self-serve experience that will automatically create the appropriate permit applications and documentation requirements for the user, addressing a common barrier for business owners who do not always know which permits they need for their projects.
  • Streamlining zoning and safety code feedback to the applicant during the application process to reduce time-consuming requests for more information.
  • Exploring concurrent development and building permit reviews, allowing business owners to complete their projects and open sooner.

Target Project Timeline: May 2022 to December 2023

Refresh Home-Based Business (HBB) Permitting and Licensing

This project will design and implement a new Home-Based Business (HBB) permitting and licensing process. It will focus on streamlining and enhancing technology to improve the application experience for HBB customers.  

Improvements will include:

  • Creating a customer guide that identifies the most common HBB types and their associated restrictions 
  • Developing a self-serve interactive guide that automatically creates the applicable fees and documents required for the customer based on their HBB type
  • Streamlining workflows for staff to create more flexibility and remove existing manual workarounds

Target project timeline: March 2023 to December 2023

Improving Customer Service and Experience

Customer Satisfaction and Feedback Management

This project introduced a new method for gathering customer experience insights for Home Improvement Permits (HIPs) and later expanded to include all permit services, safety code inspections, and business licences.

The City now surveys permit and business licence customers on an ongoing basis to get feedback on their level of satisfaction with permit, inspection, and licence processes. 

Customer satisfaction scores for these services are reported on quarterly in the Development Services Quarterly Report.

Completion Date: October 2022, updates ongoing 

Customer-Focused Support 

This project builds a customer-centric care and support model, which ensures we are able to provide guidance and timely information with as few handoffs to other staff as possible. 

These are intended to build a clear approach to customer support that reflects:

  • Customer needs (novice or expert)
  • Steps in the application process, including before submitting an application
  • All channels for providing information such as phone, email, website, in-person, 311
  • Providing digital and online services such as self-serve/online chat or help desk and digital support outside work hours
  • Resourcing requirements to support the provision of guidance or additional information

Target project timeline: 2024

Risk-Based Inspection Expansion

This project focuses on improving the customer experience around inspections conducted by the Safety Codes Permits and Inspection section for Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Gas and Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning (HVAC). 

The goals are:

  • Improve the transparency and customer experience of the inspection processes.
  • Improve the ability of permit holders to be ready for an inspection.
  • Improve inspection consistency.
  • Expanding the use of our risk-based artificial intelligence model for new house construction to ensure inspection resources are allocated to high-risk inspections first.

Completion Date: June 2024

Other Ongoing Continuous Service Improvements

Additional improvements to internal processes and the online service experience will continue in parallel as part of continuous service improvement. 

These changes include:

  • Using data to better predict permit timelines, manage application queues, and prioritize and sort application reviews using a risk-based approach
  • Enhancing the online self-serve application portal to improve online application usability and success 
  • Other opportunities that may emerge through engagement with staff and industry stakeholders
Past Improvements

In 2017, the City launched the Urban Form Business Transformation (UFBT) initiative. The initiative, executed from 2017 to 2019, largely focused on streamlining the initial stages of the land development process from rezonings to subdivisions and servicing agreements.

It includes decreasing application requirements, standardizing technical review of applications to only what was required, and setting service level timeline targets that are reported quarterly

While significant progress was made with UFBT, the work to make Edmonton an attractive location for investment is ongoing. Launched in 2020, the PLI Initiative continues to listen to homeowners, developers and businesses, city-building partners and City staff to implement changes to improve the back end of the development process from permits to licensing. 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the City implemented a number of improvements to permit and licensing services. Some of these improvements were made as part of planned projects, others were quickly implemented in response to the pandemic, and some were executed as stand-alone items identified by staff or industry members.

Since 2017, service improvements are estimated to have saved planning and development customers 260,933 days and $4.6 million in delay costs annually based on demonstrated reductions in permit timelines.

Learn more about the improvements made.

Regulatory Changes to Support Development and Business Growth

City Plan Implementation

Implementing The City Plan requires alignment between our plans and regulations. Through projects like the City Planning Framework and District Planning, the City is streamlining and clarifying policies, reducing barriers and making it easier to welcome the next one million people to our city.

Zoning Bylaw Renewal

For the first time in almost two decades, the City is overhauling its Zoning Bylaw. The renewal includes rethinking how, what and why the City regulates in terms of land development, and examining the regulations to ensure accessibility, usability, adaptability and alignment with The City Plan and other City policies and initiatives.

This work will also streamline the bylaw and associated development application processes by reducing the number of zones and regulations, having broader use categories and considering the alternative bylaws/tools the City owns to manage issues and concerns throughout our neighbourhoods.

For more information, visit Zoning Bylaw Renewal

Business Licence Bylaw Renewal

A new Business Licence Bylaw came into effect on January 17, 2022. The new bylaw provides clearer, more consistent regulations to help reduce barriers for businesses. It also allows the City to respond more quickly and decisively to new and emerging business types. 

Some of the key changes and benefits for businesses include:

  • One or two-year licence option with a discounted fee for choosing the two-year option
  • Discounted fee for businesses that renew their licence on time
  • Simplified fee schedule, where businesses with multiple categories will only be charged a single-category fee
  • New, updated licence categories with clearer descriptions and licensing requirements

For more information on the new bylaw, visit the Business Licence Bylaw Renewal page.

Open Option Parking

Edmonton made history on June 23, 2020 by becoming the first major Canadian municipality to eliminate on-site parking minimums city-wide. Known as Open Option Parking, this move allows developers, homeowners and businesses to decide how much on-site parking to provide on their properties based on their particular operations, activities or lifestyle. 

Open Option Parking improves choice in how businesses and homeowners use their properties and meet their parking needs while removing economic barriers to new homes and businesses. It also supports more diverse transportation options and climate resilience.

Learn more at Parking Rules for New Homes and Businesses

Business Support Services

The Edmonton Economic Action Plan (Action Plan) is a 10-year road map to building a vibrant, inclusive and sustainable economy. This Action Plan is one of the key elements of the City Plan and is aimed at creating jobs, attracting investment, supporting business and strengthening our economy.

Business Grants and Supports

Many grants and support initiatives have been made available to support local businesses, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Edmonton Economic Action Plan Grant launched to support a more resilient, diverse and equitable local economy
  • Commercial building grants: Businesses can access the Storefront Improvement Grant to improve the exterior of their business,  and the Development Incentive Grant to help with interior renovations and new development in targeted areas, or the Corner Store Grants to help with interior and exterior beautification in neighbourhood renewal areas
  • 2021 Edmonton Economic Incentive Construction Grant that stimulates high-impact private construction projects in the Centre City area (beginning before March 31, 2022)
  • Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant launched to support businesses through the pandemic
  • Business licence fees reduced by 50% in 2020 and 2021
  • Dispatch and vehicle licence fees reduced by 100% for limousines and 50% for all other vehicles for hire in 2020 and 2021
  • Business Improvement Area (BIA) Tax Levy Payment Deferral in 2020 for businesses located in BIAs
  • Property Tax Relief for property owners in 2020
  • City-owned Property Rent Forbearance for tenants of City-owned buildings and facilities in 2020
Temporary and Retail Expansion Patio Program

The City introduced a number of changes to the outdoor patio and retail space regulations to help support businesses in adapting to COVID-19 restrictions and add vibrancy to our city. 

Outdoor Patios and Retail Spaces on Private Property

In January 2021, City Council approved changes to the Zoning Bylaw to permanently allow restaurants, bars and neighbourhood pubs, and breweries, wineries and distilleries to open simple, ‘low impact’ outdoor patios (see section 12.2.1.dd) and convenience and general retail stores to open certain types of outdoor retail spaces (see section on private property without the need for a development permit. 

Temporary Outdoor Patios and Retail Spaces on Public Property and City Road Rights-of-Way

In 2020, the City relaxed rules for opening temporary outdoor patios, sidewalk cafes and retail expansions on City road rights-of-way. Visit the temporary patios and retail space webpage for more information.

Client Liaison Unit

Enhanced service to support the building industry on major commercial, industrial, and large-site mixed-use infill projects through all stages of the approval process.

One-on-One Program

Small business owners can access one-on-one support to navigate the processes of starting a business.

Small Business Workshops

Businesses can access workshops to learn about the process of starting specific types of business such as home-based businesses or microbreweries.

Permit Inquiry Appointments

Businesses can now set up an appointment with City staff to discuss general questions about development permit and/or building permit requirements for opening a new business or expanding an existing business.