Fast Track Program to Improve City Permitting Process
Mayor Michelle Wu and the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) today announced changes to the City permitting process that will streamline eligible projects through a revitalized “Fast Track Program.” The program, discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic, will speed up the approval of building permits for office renovations from four weeks to within seven days, provided all required documents are in order. Mayor Wu announced part of these changes during her keynote address at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Forum.
“The Fast Track program is one way we’re working to streamline city processes and make it easier to do business in Boston,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “By creating expedited approvals for qualified projects, we hope to save time and expenses through a more predictable and friendly customer service experience with permitting.”
ISD issues approximately 40,000 permits per year. The ever-increasing demand regarding building permits has led to bottlenecks for various projects. With the reinstitution and expansion of the department’s Fast Track Program, ISD will be better positioned to meet the increasing demand, address industry needs, and support businesses.
Building permit applications are currently reviewed within approximately 30 days. The Fast Track Program will bring approvals within seven days and allow construction work to begin more quickly. This change will allow the project’s commercial office space to be rented and occupied as quickly as possible. This program is intended for commercial office space and cannot be used for residential or commercial retail space.
To support the faster approval timeline, ISD will hire an Intake Supervisor, a new position within the Inspectional Services Department, and rotate plan examiners on fast track-shifts in order to ensure that projects that are eligible receive expedited approval. The newly hired Intake Supervisor will review long form permit applications, plan intake operations, and issue permits as required.
“This is a great tool to not only help attract business but also keep up with the industry's needs, all of which contributes to an increase in jobs and investment throughout the city,” said ISD Commissioner Sean Lydon. “In addition, I have directed our Constituent Services Liaisons to provide additional administrative support for those who may need guidance through the permitting process.”
To be eligible for the Fast Track Program, permit holders must ensure proposed work is in compliance with all applicable building regulations and standards, and do not require a zoning determination; a change of use, occupancy, or expansion of the existing use; or substantial alterations to the building structure.
Eligible applications are submitted in the same manner as all other building permit applications; however, Fast Track approved applications are not tracked on the normal course for application review, which generally involves review in the order received. Fast Track applications are tracked separately for expedited issuance. Applicants must apply for and submit a long-form permit (for new construction or to make updates to a building) via ISD’s permitting portal. The following documents must be uploaded into the permit intake portal with the application: two sets of plans; a letter from the building owner or agent indicating approval of the plans as submitted; the name, address, and 24-hour contact for the licensed builder; and any required affidavits from registered professionals associated with the job.
In addition, the Boston Inspectional Services recently released the “Navigating the Permitting Process” guide to help applicants through the permitting process. The guide provides step by step instructions on how to obtain a building permit, documents needed, and offers answers to frequently asked questions. The guide also outlines how to navigate the zoning appeals process and explains how to check the occupancy of a building. The guide is currently available in 10 different languages on the Inspectional Services Department website and also in paper form.
About the Inspectional Services Department
The Inspectional Services Department administers and enforces building, housing, health, sanitation, and safety regulations mandated by City and State governments. We are made up of five regulatory divisions whose aim is to protect and improve the quality of life for all Boston residents. Our mission is to serve the public by protecting the health, safety, and environmental stability of Boston's business and residential communities. Learn more about our work.