DALLAS - The city of Dallas says it has now caught up on the massive building permit backlog that delayed the construction of hundreds of new homes for months.
The city is also partnering with Toyota for a study that will guide the city on ways to become more efficient in its permitting process.
When the city's director of sustainable development and construction shared the good news with Dallas City Council members on Monday, some took it with cautious optimism after getting an earful from builders for months.
"I am concerned commercial construction timeline has gone up, I'm concerned about a seesaw, fix residential, then commercial goes up, and then vice versa," said councilman Chad West.
Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, says the city has not yet solved technical issues with online permit requests.
"I keep getting steady stream of complaints from builders," Crone said.
Delays are costly for the city as a whole.
"The permitting office is the heartbeat of our city's economic development. It is the lobby, the front porch of the progress we will see in the city that allows the projects, grows our tax base and helps with parks and streets," Crone said.
Before the city shifted to an online process, due the pandemic, building permits were issued in a matter of hours.
"When it comes to permit times the city was a shining star," Crone said.
But at the height of the backlog in January, some builders were waiting 15 weeks for approval.
"Despite demand and people wanting to live near the city center, these delays are driving up costs in a time costs are increasing," Crone said.
While the permit process is improving for residential construction, the wait time for commercial projects has gotten worse.
"We will keep rearranging the deck chairs on a rudderless ship unless we address the issues that are underneath this," Crone said.
Crone says he is hopeful the project with Toyota's Production System Support Center will improve Dallas' customer service. Long hold times, dropped calls, no responses to voice mails and emails are among the issues the city hopes to evaluate and address. The results are expected to be presented in august or September.