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.

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 workstreams. Prioritization and scoping of these work streams were influenced by the goal of supporting the above customer groups, as well 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, leverage 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.

2022/2023 PLI Work Streams

Development and Construction Application Processing Timelines

Establishing Timelines

This project will establish timelines that set out how long customers can expect it to take for the City to process various development permit, building permit, business licence, and land development applications. The timelines will be measured in calendar days from when a customer submits a complete application and pays fees to the time a decision is made.

These newly established timelines will 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.  

Target Implementation Date: April 2022

Monitoring and Improving Timelines

The next step will be for the City to develop tools to monitor and report back on its performance against the newly established timelines. This information will be used to help inform and guide the focus of the regulatory, process, and technological improvements needed to help standardize the delivery of development-related services and ensure we are consistently meeting the established timelines.  

Through this work and the other upcoming process, regulatory and technology improvement, there may be opportunities to refine and potentially reduce timelines for some services in the future. For example, the City is looking at opportunities to introduce a predictive model for permit timelines, which could provide customers with more real-time information on their permit status and timelines.

Target project timeline: May to November 2022

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 will include:

  • Improving workflows to provide application requirements upfront based on project needs, which will provide a more predictable and transparent experience
  • Creating a self-serve interactive guide that will automatically generate the applicable fees and documents required, giving homeowners more clarity and letting them better plan their project timelines
  • Providing 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
  • Streamlining the refund process to reduce frustrating barriers and delays when returning money to applicants

Target project timeline: April to June 2022 

Customer Satisfaction and Feedback Management

This project will pilot a new method for gathering customer experience insights for Home Improvement Permits (HIPs) and trialling software to measure satisfaction. The City will be surveying home improvement permit (HIP) customers on their level of satisfaction with their permit process experience during the 2022 spring construction season.

Feedback gathered will be incorporated into performance measures and used to manage and improve service delivery. Based on the successes and lessons learned from the pilot project, the methods and survey software may be expanded to measure satisfaction with other permit services.

Target project timeline: April to June 2022

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 February 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: September 2022 to April 2023

Improving Customer Service and Experience

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 prior to 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: 2023

Customer Satisfaction and Feedback Management

This project will pilot a new method for gathering customer experience insights for Home Improvement Permits (HIPs) and trialling software to measure satisfaction. The City will be surveying home improvement permit (HIP) customers on their level of satisfaction with their permit process experience during the 2022 spring construction season.

Feedback gathered will be incorporated into performance measures and used to manage and improve service delivery. Based on the successes and lessons learned from the pilot, the methods and survey software may be expanded to measure satisfaction with other permit services.

Target project timeline: April to June 2022

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:

  • Leveraging the use of 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 standalone 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 to date.

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 edmonton.ca/ZoningBylawRenewal

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 edmonton.ca/BusinessLicenceBylawRenewal.

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 edmonton.ca/makingspace

Business Support Services

The Edmonton Economic Action Plan (Action Plan) is a 10-year roadmap 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.
  • Centralized support through edmonton.ca/BusinessInfo for businesses
  • 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 12.2.1.ee) 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.