41 Staff Added to Decrease Permit Wait Times
On Thursday, June 3rd Austin City Council approved the Austin Development Services Department’s request for an increase of 41 staff members to help cope with the high number of permits being submitted for review and inspection. These new hires will cover duties in a variety of areas that are experiencing backlogs to cut down permit wait times and support the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint. Permit review times have increased well beyond target completion goals as the number of development permit applications seems to have surged during the pandemic.
The construction boom in Austin is largely due to the increase in residents to the Austin area, which has been the fastest-growing large U.S. metro, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data. Over the last decade, the metro has gained an estimated 579,014 residents, which equates to a 34% population growth rate. With unprecedented growth and construction rates, downtown Austin has 9.2 million square feet under construction across 28 projects, with an additional 32 planned projects spanning 19 million square feet. According to the Downtown Austin Alliance, more than 1.5 million square feet of Class A office space is expected to be developed in 2021, which breaks all previous annual records.
As part of the commitment to facilitate permitting in a timely manner for affordable housing projects, City Staff were asked to prioritize review of the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint, which is a 10-year plan to create more affordable housing. The plan includes building 60,000 housing units for those who make less than 80% of the median family income, which is about $95,000. An additional 75,000 units will be built for those who make more than 80% median family income.
Masterplan’s Karen Wunsch commented, “The additional staff is great news and in the best interest of the entire community.” The DSD staffing shortages coupled with the high volumes of development applications further highlight how critical it is that each submittal is of the highest quality. A quality submittal packet facilitates the review process by making it easier and therefore quicker for staff to review plans and more importantly it reduces the number of review cycles required. More good news associated with this announcement is that the new positions are being added with no increase to permit fees.