Obtaining a timely building permit in Dallas can be an anxiety-inducing experience, whether an applicant is a small, budget-conscious business owner or a large developer looking to expand its footprint into the local real estate market.
In practice, no municipal process is without its flaws. In Dallas, however, issues with the local permitting process have ballooned to such a degree that City Manager T.C. Broadnax listed it as a top priority in his 100-day plan back in July.
One hundred days have come and gone, and Dallas is far from a permanent fix. Still, many in the development community hold out hope that Dallas’ chief building official, Andrew Espinoza, can fashion a solution to the City’s backlog.
Since taking over the previously-vacant role of Dallas’ Development Services Department (DSD) director in June, Espinoza has worked to increase the department’s transparency, implement customer-based initiatives, and improve communication between the community and staff.
In the meantime, developers and builders are stuck shouldering the financial burden that naturally accompanies permit-related construction delays, which according to Phil Crone, executive director for the Dallas Builders Association (DBA), can add up to $200-$300 per project, per day.
In many instances, the unexpected financial strain on developers can lead to blown-out budgets and, ultimately, the demise of various residential, multi-family, or commercial projects that otherwise would succeed if not for long delays from the DSD.
Although Development Services is directly responsible for tackling the stockpile of permit applications, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson pointed to City Manager Broadnax as the responsible party in his recent State of The City Address.
“Mr. City Manager, we need you to take our city government to the next level by ensuring that the services we offer, such as those in our city’s permitting office, are first-class and customer-centric,” Johnson said during this year’s annual speech. “I know our City Council is ready to give you whatever tools you need to make that happen. We need urgency, and we need results,” he insisted.
Broadnax received heavy scrutiny from local officials and was nearly ousted as city manager in June for failing to adequately fulfill his promise to reduce the time it takes for the city to issue its building permits.
The average number of days to issue a new single-family (NSF) permit over the 2021-2022 calendar year was approximately 43 days, according to a year-to-date comparison of DSD’s permit data found in the department’s monthly newsletter.
DSD reported 41 days in September and 50 days in October, a nine-day increase in the average issuance time on a month-over-month basis.
According to Crone, more than 80% of DBA members surveyed in October reported waiting more than 10 weeks for a permit.
“That’s much longer than any surrounding cities and shows that Dallas still has an awfully long way to go in sorting this out,” he said.
Still, instead of removing Broadnax from his post and replacing him, council members, while divided in their decision, doubled down on their pick and allowed Broadnax to keep his job as city manager — in addition to awarding him a 3% bump in salary.
As Dallas’ city manager, Broadnax earns a whopping $423,000 annual salary. As reported by The Dallas Express, the average salary of a sitting U.S. president is roughly $400,000, nearly 6% less than Dallas’ highest-paid public official.
“I was shocked, frankly,” Crone said in a recent interview with The Real Deal, a Texas-based real estate news publication. “It made me wonder, you know, who’s working for who here? Is the council really the one who employs him?” he asked.
While it is still unclear what steps Broadnax and Espinoza will take in 2023 to steer Dallas’ permit system back on the right path, the development community is certainly hoping that more progress is made next year than was made this year.