Homebuilders are complaining that City of Dallas permitting delays make it difficult to do business in Dallas.
Permits that were granted within days in the past are taking weeks or months now according to Homebuilders Association of Greater Dallas President Phil Crone.
“The city is in a huge revenue shortfall. You have projects that are trying to infuse help for that into the tax system and they’re just sitting there, in a virtual desk somewhere,” he said.
As an example, developer Alan Hoffman has a project of eight houses in East Dallas that just received permits after eight weeks of waiting.
“That's not tenable. You can't function as a company like that,” Hoffman said. “We used to be able to get a permit in a day. And that was in January. We could get a permit in a day.”
Hoffman said lenders want answers about how long a project will take but he can not provide those answers in Dallas.
The delays can keep workers out of work and add cost that is passed on to buyers.
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Interest rates are low and the builders say there is a demand for new homes in Dallas at every price point.
The City of Dallas estimates there is a need for 20,000 new lower cost homes.
“And you can’t make housing more affordable by making building more expensive. And you make building more expensive by delaying it,” Crone said.
The delays increased with the coronavirus pandemic as Dallas was forced to quickly switch to an online permitting system that was not ready. Officials have blamed computer problems and a shortage of people.
“By and large every other city with the exception of Dallas made the transition to a virtual, socially distant environment, pretty well,” Crone said.
Dallas City Councilman Chad West who leads the City Council Housing Committee is also an attorney who has been involved with construction projects in Dallas and surrounding cities.
“Our permitting process has been a problem for a long time,” West said. “If we as a city are not making it easier to build new homes, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. And it’s hurting our ability to generate tax dollars, tax dollars we need to pay for public safety, parks, libraries.”
A new Dallas city budget includes money for new temporary workers to help clear out the permit backlog, but West is not optimistic that promises of making it happen in the next two months can be kept.
Meanwhile, other cities are out to lure builders and tax dollars away from Dallas.
“If we can't deliver lots in Dallas, yea, we're going elsewhere. I'm looking in other cities,” Hoffman said.
In an e-mail Friday, Dallas Development Services Administrator David Cossum said officials are acutely aware of the concerns.
Cossum said there have been some time improvements from rearranging staff and that updated computers are expected to improve handling the large files associated with plan reviews.