Texas considers bill to privatize issuance of building permits

By Christian Britschgi | Reason

While it can take some jurisdictions around the country a year or more to process permits, Dallas’ in-person approval system could normally get an applicant their permits within a few days.

At least, that was true before COVID, which shut down Dallas’ in-person system. Meanwhile, the online permitting system the city had been in the process of setting up proved to be a disaster.  The result was a “permitting crisis” says Phil Crone, of the Dallas Builders Association, whereby applications for thousands of new units were sitting idle and untouched at city hall for months.

Under an 18-year-old Texas “shot clock” law, municipalities have to approve or deny development permits within 45 days. Subsequent reforms have reduced those deadlines to 30 days for some applications.

If cities miss those deadlines, they have to refund applicants’ permit fees. “As far as I know in 18 years, no one has ever gotten a refund,” says Crone.

That’s because cities like Dallas give applicants the option of waiving their rights to a refund if the city misses the state deadline. The alternative is the city can just deny your permit after the 45 days are up.

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