Reduce Regulatory Costs: Expedite Permitting and Reduce Fees & Parking Requirements

Dec 2015

The permitting and review process plays an important role in ensuring newly built or renovated housing meets health, safety, environmental, and other standards. However a lengthy or complex approval process can lead to delays that increase expenses. These increased expenses make it more difficult to deliver a full range of housing choices and sometimes act as a deterrent to new development. Expediting the permitting and review process reduces delays and expenses for new development. A good way to make affordable housing more attractive to developers is to set up special expedited permitting for developers building affordable housing. This reduces the cost to develop affordable housing and provides developers with a secure and stable environment in which to do business.

What problems do these policies solve?

Efforts to expedite the permitting and review processes generally focus on reducing the delays caused by administrative inefficiencies. These delays are often the product of a series of well-intentioned building, zoning, and environmental codes, the administration of which, when taken together, can delay the necessary approvals for long periods of time, in some cases years.

Major administrative delays are caused when developers are required to submit multiple permit applications and secure approvals from an array of agencies. Each of these agencies will have its own timetable and set of organizational procedures. This can lead to major delay and expense before building can even begin. These costs add up to drive up the cost of new housing.

This is particularly of concern when new housing includes an affordability component. As costs caused by administrative inefficiencies rise it becomes more and more difficult to build housing that is affordable. The result of this is that new affordable housing either is not built or requires large subsidies. Expedited permitting and review policies address these issues by restructuring regulatory processes to emphasize efficiency, predictability, and cost savings. The result includes benefits for both the public and private sectors while still ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

A lengthy and drawn out approval process costs the community dearly. Streamlining the process can have numerous beneficial effects including an improvement in the morale and retention of public employees by eliminating confusing and stressful procedures. The overall community benefits by increasing housing affordability through either increased housing construction or through special treatment of affordable housing proposals. Areas where demand for new housing is greatest and the combined burden of existing regulations the heaviest are likely to see the greatest benefits.

How can these processes be made more efficient?

Several simple steps can make a big difference in reducing the costs of development to meet city objectives. An early meeting with developers, with attendance required by representatives of all city departments that will be involved in approval of the proposed project can surface potential issues early and lead to coordinated problem solving. It can also lead to an agreed upon assignment of tasks and schedule for completion. Having one staff person sheppard each project through city processes can also safe time and frustration.

What policies are most beneficial in expanding opportunities for new housing?

Waiver or reduce local fees.

Cities that charge a variety of fees for new residential developments. These fees are intended to cover city costs related to processing the development, land use, or city financing applications, to access city sewer and water, or as is the case with park or similar dedication fees, to offset burdens placed on city services and infrastructure as a result of the development. These fees vary greatly from city to city and project to project. and can easily amount to $20,000-$30,000 per housing unit. Waiver or reduction of fees, can therefore be very helpful in making development of new homes financially feasible and affordable to a larger number of people.

Reduce parking requirements.

Underground parking can easily cost $20,000 or more per parking space and local parking requirements that are excessive can increase the costs of housing production. Pursue at least three strategies to reduce parking costs by:

  • Studying actual parking utilization in various locations and types of housing;
  • Reducing parking requirements near transit, high frequent bus lines and for some types of housing such as senior assisted and dementia housing
  • Using proof of parking, in which a developer is allowed to reduce required parking by showing that, if necessary, additional parking can be made available, for instance on project open space;
  • Explore tools that developers and property managers can use to Right Size Parking by better managing parking supply specifically in multifamily buildings.

Case Study: Roseville Development Review Committee

The City of Roseville, Minnesota created an internal Development Review Committee (DRC) to help expedite the review and permit process within the City. The DRC consists of representatives of all departments, administration, community development, police, fire, engineering and public works, streets and utilities and parks and recreation. It was established to ensure internal coordination and provide efficient and timely processing of land use applications, setback permit applications, or other administratively reviewed development proposals.

The DRC comes together to determine technical conformance of proposed developments with the requirements of the City Code. The DRC reviews all development-related submittals such as commercial or industrial site plans, platting or subdivisions, zoning amendments, conditional use permits, variances, and vacations of public easements. Recommendations of the DRC are forwarded to Parks Commission, Planning Commission and City Council where applicable. The program is effective at helping to resolve internal discrepancies in applications prior to formal submission and consideration of approval.

The process helps to reduce discrepancies between department requirements and serves as a one-stop shop for development guidance.

Housing Counts Policy Toolbox, Housing Policy, Public Lands & Resources
Who is it for?
Policy Makers

More Reports & Tools