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Dallas officials working to speed up building permit process during housing shortage

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Dallas developers and business owners say the city's slow permitting process is getting in the way of building apartments and houses. And Dallas is facing a housing shortage.

Developers and business owners complain that delays in Dallas' permitting process is getting in the way of building new houses and apartments at a time when there's a shortage. But City Manager T.C. Broadnax said his staff are working to speed that up.

Broadnax wants to fill vacant positions, replace the outdated permitting software and improve workflow.

“We are going to hire. We're going to fill the seats. It is not a revenue issue it is about finding a way to get better. And we will measure that by the speed at which we can produce the turnaround times in the permitting,” he said at a city council meeting Wednesday.

Developers say it can take more than 40 days to get a permit in Dallas for a single-family home, according to D Magazine. Permits in Grand Prairie are processed in approximately 10 business days. And in Fort Worth 7 days.

Dallas city council members blame the city's broken permitting system on staff shortages, lack of accountability and communication.

"If we need the people, hire the people, pay them,” Council Member Paula Blackmon said.

Blackmon is the co-chair of a workgroup created by Major Eric Johnson tasked to come up with ways to streamline the city’s building permitting process. She, along with Council Member Chad West and Paul Ridley, questioned why the city is hiring an outside company for manpower instead of hiring and training city staff to review and approve permit applications.

“Is there some inherent reason why they (contracted workers) are more efficient than city employees?” Ridley said. “If it’s a matter of they are able and we are not and that’s because of respective pay scales, why don’t we pay our reviewers more?”

City staff said it will begin a compensation study in June that will look at how Dallas pays compared to other cities and whether salaries for new hires should be boosted.

Broadnax said a new online platform will lay out the process and estimate how long it will take to get a permit.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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