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Building permit backlog spurs policy review

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Amarillo, TX -- Amarillo is known for being a high-growth city, but home builders are having trouble keeping up.  Now city planners and local developers are doing to deal with it.

Before a builder can begin construction on any project in Amarillo, the City Planning Department has to approve it - that's just standard operating procedure.  but the approval process can take months, and that's led to a backlog of new construction permits.

Over the last decade, Amarillo's population has seen a steady growth rate of about one to two percent a year.  And while we have more than enough land and builders to accommodate that growth, the overlong waiting period for new permits has stymied it - which puts most lots in the hands of builders, as Chip Staniswalis of Chicago Title of Texas explains,

"Until the city and the builders get together and there are new developments opening through the permitting system, then the only new construction that will occur is on existing lots that are now primarily owned by builders."

The city established much of its current permitting system after the housing bubble burst in 2008, which all but stopped new real estate investment just about everywhere.  So now that the market has stabilized, the city is working with developers to revamp that system to streamline the process.

"We have some development policies here in Amarillo that have been in place for a long, long time," says City Planning Director Kelley Shaw, "and so it's obviously time that we revisit that and just make sure that we're as efficient and as timely as possible."

"There's no conflict between the builders and the city," explains Staniswalis, "it's just that the time that it takes to get the city to approve projects is longer than ... is longer than the time builders could be building homes and filling the lots that, if they were approved, that new construction could begin on."

The City Planning Department is hoping to have the new policies in place by this summer, if not earlier.

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