Dallas, May I?

Building permit delays cost city millions, builders and buyers thousands

Sue Berk says an email from her foundation subcontractor provides an excellent example of how much delays in Dallas’ permitting process can boost the cost of building a house.

“I’ve been waiting for these permits, and I talked to my foundation guy (recently) to get a quote,” she said. “He just sent me an email this morning from his supplier – concrete prices are going up April 1.

“So, the quote that he gave me is now void because prices are going up, and there’s no way we can pour a foundation before April 1 – even if I got my permits today, we still have to do all that other work before we can pour the foundation.”

Berk estimated it would cost her an extra $5,000 when material and labor costs have gone up already, too.

“A foundation a year ago was like $30,000, and now it’s like $40,000,” she said.

James Hammel, who serves as the Dallas-Fort Worth regional partner for Alair Homes and is on the National Association of the Remodeling Industry North Texas Chapter board, said that Dallas is a hard city to get a permit from.

“Without a doubt, the city of Dallas is very difficult – probably the most difficult municipality that there is, maybe in the entire Metroplex,” he said.

But he also said he felt that builders need to make sure their permit applications have everything required before submitting them.

“We as builders have to do a better job, too,” he said.

Builders are reporting waits of sometimes months for a permit where it used to take days. That costs the city money, too.

In a recent study, the Real Estate Council estimated that a three-month delay in permitting cost the city about $8 million in tax revenue and made a $31 million impact in total property taxes.

In February, Mayor Eric Johnson announced in a memo to city staff and the Dallas City Council that he was creating the Mayor’s Working Group on Permitting. He appointed City Councilmember Paula Blackmon to lead it.

Johnson said the group would seek input, research solutions, monitor progress, and work with city staff in “breaking down silos in city government” before returning to the council with a plan of action. 

“This is an opportunity for us to really get this right and fix a process that has been broken for a long time,” Blackmon said. 

“The Dallas City Council has taken action on this issue in the manner that our city’s form of government prescribes,” Johnson said in his memo. “We repeatedly have made clear to the city manager that fixing what ails the permitting office is a top priority for us. 

“Enough is enough. Dallas deserves better.”

Source: North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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