For more than two years, Dallas has been burdened by a significant backlog in building permits.
Used as a leading indicator for future home construction, building permits for single-family dwellings fell to the lowest level since June 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While the decline in single-family permits carries national significance, locally, building officials are currently working to resolve Dallas’ backlog in single-family permits.
When Development Services’ new chief building official, Andrew Espinoza, took over the job on June 1, he fully acknowledged Dallas’ permitting mess and promised to clean it up.
In an interview with The Dallas Express, Espinoza spoke about some of the progress the Development Services Department had made with the city’s backlog, which can cost builders around $200-$300 per project per day.
“We’ve had some success with our “Pop-Up Permit Event,” said Espinoza. “Our residential single-family team has been able to issue multiple same-day, single-family permits for folks.” While the permitting event yielded moderate success, he admitted there was still a long way to go in solving the problem.
One initiative Dallas has proposed as a solution is the “Rapid Single-Family VIP Program.” The fee-based initiative aims to expedite the permitting process for people hoping to build single-family homes.
Customers who pay the fee to be in the Rapid Single-Family VIP Program could potentially get their permits the same day they apply for it.
Dallas’ draft proposal was to charge a $200-per-hour fee for a new single-family permit with a maximum of two hours, Espinoza explained in an email. In addition, a $500 non-refundable minimum charge is required with the permit application, according to Administrative Procedures for the Construction Codes, Chapter 52.
Alan Hoffman, CEO of Hoffmann Homes, said the program is a good option for construction companies that can afford it but awaited news of whether the city would also help those who may not be able to pay the fee.
“They know we’re spending money to keep a project waiting, and they know we’re a captive audience,” Hoffman said. “They’re going to capitalize on it.”
Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, said the proposed program is really only helpful to those fortunate enough to be able to pay to use it.
The program is “great in theory and will give a few people an opportunity to move to the front of the line and perhaps get their permit done in hours as opposed to the weeks or months that it’s taken,” said Crone.
In July, Dallas took 33 days to issue permits for new single-family homes, according to Espinoza — one day more than in June but 25 days less than it took in May this year.
“Month after month, our programs will build momentum,” Espinoza said. “Dallas has a wide, broad, and diverse group of people who need permits issued. We are steadfast in our commitment to support the community.”
This year, Development Services focused on expanding awareness and outreach.
“We could have done a better job of reaching bilingual and multilingual communities,” Espinoza admitted.
To cast a wider net and reach more applicants with these events, Espinoza said the department recently formed a dedicated social media team responsible for expanding awareness and assisting with questions.
The department also hired several bilingual employees tasked with bridging the language gap that sometimes exists between those that issue permits and those that require them.
The effectiveness of the initiatives — namely by how much they reduce the permit backlog — is calculated on a month-to-month basis. Espinoza said data for August would be available in mid-September.
In addition, he said the Pop-Up Permit events would take place on the third Saturday of the month and will continue through the next six months, not including holidays.
They had better do more to improve the permit process before the effects of climate change raze all the lumber skeletons awaiting the next step! Most of us saw the clips of the in-progress homes falling completely apart in the face of Sunday’s unpredicted storm. That’s money down the drain, literally.
Oh and pay for play is the answer? How classist of City Hall to charge more in what’s basically a ‘pay for play’ scheme. For a service people already pay for AND the taxpayer pays for! How exactly does more money and a VIP program improve the problems that plague the permit office?