City’s new equity toolkit is first of its kind in Canada
June 29, 2021

The City of Edmonton developed a GBA+ and Equity Toolkit as part of the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative to ensure planners consider equity and diversity when drafting zoning rules for the city.

“This is the first time a Canadian municipality has developed a formal practice to check if regulations may have unintended impacts on underrepresented groups,” said Stephanie McCabe, Deputy City Manager for Urban Planning & Economy. “From The City Plan to our new GBA+ and Equity Toolkit, Edmonton is considered a true leader in advancing land-use planning and regulatory best practices.” 

As part of the GBA+ and Equity Toolkit, the City partnered with the University of Alberta to explore the intersections of equity, human rights and land-use regulation. Dr. Sandeep Agrawal, Professor and Director of the University of Alberta’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, led the research. His team conducted a thorough review of academic literature, best practices, stakeholder interviews and relevant case law to gain insight into how equity can be embedded into municipal regulations, including the Zoning Bylaw. 

“During the course of our research, we discovered long-standing equity issues embedded in Edmonton’s land-use regulations,” said Dr. Agrawal. “We have recommended a multidimensional, holistic equity approach to guide the City of Edmonton so that it can best apply equity and human rights considerations into its new Zoning Bylaw.”

Engagement with Edmontonians from underrepresented communities also helped give insight into how land-use regulations create inequities. Participants’ stories and experiences resulted in a number of recommendations for the toolkit and the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative, including:

  • Enabling mixed-use, mixed-income development
  • Reducing the number of residential zones and permitting diverse housing typologies
  • Reducing zoning complexity and improving public awareness and understanding
  • Removing values around what defines family 

“In developing the GBA+ and Equity Toolkit, community members identified how zoning can perpetuate communication barriers and creates challenges to affordable and diverse housing, accessibility, inclusion, public participation, safety, and connection transit, amenities and services,” said Livia Balone, Director of the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative. “The GBA+ and Equity Toolkit provides the City with a tangible opportunity to make improvements to the Zoning Bylaw through an equity lens, to identify and address inequities in our regulations and to ultimately offset disproportionate impacts felt by certain segments of the population.”

Other jurisdictions and professions from across Canada have reached out to the Zoning Bylaw team about the GBA+ and Equity Toolkit. The Cities of Ottawa, Victoria, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, St. Albert, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg, in addition to the Government of Canada - Public Services and Procurement, are actively using the GBA+ and Equity Toolkit for their own work. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and Canadian Institute of Planners are sharing this resource to their members. This national exchange provides an opportunity for shared learning and understanding around zoning, equity and human rights, with Edmonton and the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative taking a front seat in the conversation. 

The Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative is a multi-year comprehensive overhaul of the city’s current Zoning Bylaw that includes a complete rethink on how, what, and why the City regulates in terms of zoning and land development. It will result in a strategic, simplified and streamlined Zoning Bylaw to enable people, places and businesses to thrive and prosper.
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