In October, Andrew Espinoza, director of the City of Dallas’ Development Services Department (DSD), told council members that he expected permitting issues to persist for several more years, citing problems with the City’s permit software and a lack of staff to handle the backlog.
Flash forward to the end of November and, though Espinoza and his office — which is ultimately overseen by embattled city manager T.C. Broadnax — have yet to confirm it, building permit applications seem to be turned around somewhat quicker. This is the case for at least one local builder, and the number of complaints filed with the Dallas Builders Association (Dallas BA) has slowed.
“At the height of it, I was getting three or four a day,” Phil Crone, Dallas BA’s executive director, told The Dallas Express. “Now I’m getting three or four a week.”
Crone said the system is still far from perfect, and the amount of money lost for local builders and the tax dollars the City of Dallas is missing out on both are incredible.
“The failures from the building inspection department and the city manager’s office have led to this,” Crone continued. “Now, you know, I’m still frustrated that it’s taking so long to fix the problem. It does seem to be headed in the right direction. There is new leadership in the building inspection department, and, uh, I think those guys really want to do well.”
Over at Keen Homes, the feelings are similar.
“It appears something is changing,” Kelly Reynolds, a local home builder, told The Dallas Express.
Reynolds, who started Keen Homes in Dallas in 2009, told The Dallas Express he has been hurting like the rest of the builders in the region but thinks there might be light at the end of the tunnel.
He said he has seen building wait times drop from 10 weeks to around six weeks.
“We’re coming up on three years of this problem,” he said. “I think there will eventually be a happy ending, but, you know, who can say exactly when?”
In the meantime, DSD said it wants to work with the development community and slowly put plans into place to make building easier. Crone said he sees some signs of hope in the DSD initiatives.
“Do give credit, because it’s due, to Andrew Espinoza and his team for their efforts,” Crone told The Dallas Express. “They’ve got a long way to go, but the level of care is there, and I’ve got faith that they’re going to help find a way through here, sooner rather than later.”
The improvement seems due in part to Espinoza’s new “fast-track” residential permitting program, The Dallas Express reported.
DSD launched the “Residential Plan Review Fast-Track Permit Process” on November 1, designed so that residential developers who submit a lot of similar permits can have several floor plans reviewed and approved simultaneously.
A month earlier, a Dallas BA survey asked association members how long permits submitted since May 1 took for approval. Out of the over 90 homes included in the study, more than 80% took more than 10 weeks, Dallas BA reported in October.
Builders also said there were extensive delays at different points in the process. More than half had to wait longer than four weeks for prescreening, 83% had to wait more than a month for zoning review, and over 70% of homes had to wait three or four more weeks for water and waste-water review.
“We’ve urged the City to find ways to publish accurate and actionable data regarding how long it is taking people so that we can dive into and solve the root cause of what is holding up these various steps,” said Crone at the time.
The Dallas Express has requested a follow-up interview with Espinoza at DSD.