NAIOP Report Examines Development Approvals Processes Across North America

Jurisdictions rated for transparency, accountability and consistency

June 15, 2023 | Washington, D.C.

The NAIOP Research Foundation has published a new research brief that examines development approvals processes across 100 jurisdictions from 30 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario.

The brief, Examining Development Approvals Across North America: An Analysis of Site Plan and Building Permit Review Processes, builds on The Development Approvals Index: A New Tool to Evaluate Local Approvals Processes (the Index) released by the NAIOP Research Foundation in February 2021. The Index provides a systematic method to objectively evaluate and compare approvals processes in different jurisdictions by focusing on site and building plan reviews, permitting and inspections. Publicly available data on these elements are weighted and summarized under three broad “pillar” categories: transparency, accountability and consistency – all of which affect the duration and cost of approvals.

The brief is accompanied by a spreadsheet containing detailed information about development approvals in each of the 100 evaluated jurisdictions. “The most recent updates to the Development Approvals Index offer expanded coverage and greater detail, which developers and their stakeholders can use to assess site-plan and building-approval processes in local jurisdictions,” according to the brief, authored by C. Kat Grimsley, Ph.D., visiting scholar in the Housing Economics and Real Estate Sector Research Group at the University of Alicante in Spain, and a former NAIOP Distinguished Fellow.

Initially, the Index was populated with 30 jurisdictions from 16 U.S. states and was accompanied by a research brief providing a detailed example of how the Index could be used by different stakeholders. In mid-2022, data collection was expanded to include jurisdictions representing additional NAIOP chapters. The updated Index now includes 100 jurisdictions from 30 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario.

While the Index uses a score and ranking methodology to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of approvals processes in different jurisdictions, it should not be considered an endorsement of any individual jurisdiction’s overall approvals process. Notably, most jurisdictions did not achieve high overall scores. Even the highest-scoring jurisdiction of Fairfax County, Virginia, scored only 69 out of a possible 120 points.

The brief compares jurisdictions’ scores against economic and demographic data, such as population size, population density, median household income and per capita budgetary expenditures. None of these factors has a direct correlation with Index score, suggesting that municipalities do not need to be large, dense, or affluent to adopt transparent, accountable and consistent approvals processes. Indeed, many of the practices evaluated by the Index do not appear to require significant resources to implement.

Those interested in advocating for improvements to a municipality’s approval processes can refer to data collected using the Index to identify jurisdictions that have adopted specific practices such as third-party inspections or concurrent site plan and building permit review. Evidence that these practices have been adopted by other jurisdictions can demonstrate to local officials that alternative approaches can contribute to an improved entitlement process.

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About the NAIOP Research Foundation
The NAIOP Research Foundation was established in 2000 as a 501(c)(3) organization to support the work of individuals and organizations engaged in real estate development, investment and operations. The Foundation’s core purpose is to provide information about how real properties impact and benefit communities throughout North America. For more information, visit

NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association is the leading organization for developers, owners, investors and related professionals in office, industrial, retail, and mixed-use real estate. NAIOP provides unparalleled industry networking and education and advocates for effective legislation on behalf of our members. NAIOP advances responsible, sustainable development that creates jobs and benefits the communities in which our members work and live. For more information, visit

NAIOP Contact:
Kathryn Hamilton, NAIOP vice president for marketing and communications
703-904-7100, ext. 165