Amid its housing shortage, Austin is trying to keep up with permits to build more

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A department within the City of Austin that deals with housing permits is asking for help.

The Development Services Department (DSD) said it can’t keep up with an increased volume of permit applications, and that’s not good for Austin’s housing shortage.

They’re hoping council approves more than three dozen new employees at Thursday’s city council meeting.

Monica Brickley just received the permit for her new home a few days ago.

“Ultimately, this will be a new home for me and my family and our kids and my mom,” she said of the now-empty piece of land in Zilker.

She paid for the expedited permitting process.

“It took eight weeks, which in my eyes is not very expedited,” Brickley said.

Local developer and broker Scott Turner said he’s seen that, too.

He said ideally, a non-expedited permitting process should take one month. Right now, it’s about four months.

“We were down to the last comment that we needed to have cleared by one single department, and it took us 60 days just to get a reply to an email,” said Turner, who is also president-elect of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.

According to city documents, DSD said more permit applications are being submitted at a faster pace and is asking city council to approve 41 new full-time staff to help with backlogs.

They said getting through permit reviews quicker will lead to more much-needed housing on the market.

“If I can build a house in six months instead of the 12 months that it’s taking now, I can get twice as much housing on the ground in the same amount of time,” Turner said.

He said increasing staffing at DSD is a good step and he’s glad DSD is taking the lead on improvements, but he hopes change also comes to other departments that deal with permitting, too, like Austin Energy and the fire department.

“It would be great to see all of the departments and the city manager all commit to solving it together, rather than doing it one at a time,” he said.

Brickley agreed.

“That’s a start but probably not the only way that it could be approached,” she said.

DSD said the additional positions would be covered by current funding levels approved for fiscal year 2020. It said the increased revenue from all these new permit applications will pay for the positions starting in fiscal year 2021.

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