An Award-Winning City’s Proven Path to Housing Affordability

The housing crisis across North America continues to escalate with affordability issues persisting in both Canada and the United States.

One city that is getting ahead of the problem is Edmonton, AB, Canada, with a 2022 Municipal Benchmarking Study by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association ranking Edmonton as the best city in Canada for housing affordability. This national recognition was followed in quick succession by a provincial award from the Government of Alberta recognizing Edmonton’s Permit and Licensing Improvement (PLI) Initiative with a 2022 Municipal Excellence Award in the category of Red Tape Reduction. In saving citizens $4.6 million and 261,000 days annually, the City of Edmonton’s efforts at reducing red tape are certainly paying dividends within the building community.

“Our production team is extremely happy. The sooner we build it, the sooner we finish it and the sooner the customer gets their product,” said Nicholas Northup, President, Premier Built Garages. “At the end of the day it (online permitting process) saved our production team and construction team time and they can build garages faster and turn them over to homeowners faster. We’re very happy with the new online system. You have cut the red tape.” (Source)

To achieve these award-winning gains, the City of Edmonton is progressing several interrelated work streams and regulatory changes via the City’s Permit and Licensing Improvement (PLI) Initiative. From monitored processing times, to enhanced home improvement permitting, to Edmonton’s celebrated zoning reforms, these initiatives are working in concert to encourage investment and make it easier for businesses and homeowners to navigate the zoning, permitting and licensing process.

A core focus of PLI is Edmonton’s emphasis on Permitting Transformation for Business, a project focused on streamlining and enhancing technology to improve business owners’ and staff’s experience with the commercial permitting and licensing application process.

Planned 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.


From Public Policy to Innovation Implementation

To help enable such transformation, the City of Edmonton makes extensive use of their POSSE solution to facilitate an effective self-service permitting portal featuring streamlined workflows, automated timeline triggers, and fully integrated permitting processes for multiple stakeholders. The capabilities of a jurisdiction’s planning approvals system plays a critical role in their overall housing affordability efforts. So much so that the City of Edmonton top ranking in the category of Planning Features (incl. development guidance, application tracking, electronic submissions and payments, and document availability) plays a pivotal role in calculating the City’s overall top ranking in the CHBA Municipal Benchmarking Study. As the original ‘Powered by POSSE’ client, the City of Edmonton has leveraged POSSE as a true enterprise platform and innovation engine expanding its usage of the software to hundreds of active workflows representing over 3400 internal business users and external agencies.

For those jurisdictions seeking to emulate the City of Edmonton’s progress on housing affordability and red tape reduction, we highly recommend that you take a few moments to read through the specifics of the City’s Permitting and Licensing Improvement (PLI) Initiative. A relatively quick read, the PLI webpage is nonetheless jam packed with innovative ideas and best practices that can help your agency expedite a proven path to housing affordability.

To take it one step further and correlate these policy initiatives to specific software implementation scenarios that you can facilitate with a suitably robust enterprise solution such as POSSE PLS, take a brief moment to read: The 7 Ways a Modern Planning and Permitting System Addresses the Housing Affordability Crisis.

For information specific to the Ontario Housing Crisis, Solving Ontario’s Housing Crisis with People, Process, and Platform is an informative read as well.