Time Is Money for Housing Developments (and Residents)

While strict, suburban-style regulations often get a bad rap for the lack of housing in high demand cities, the red tape and other obstacles that delay development could be the worst culprit.
August 29, 2017, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Sheila Fitzgerald

Dan Bertolet examines "one of the most important but overlooked causes of housing shortage: delay."

“Time is money,” goes the saying, and it’s the cardinal truth in the business of building homes. When a city’s regulations stretch the time from blueprint to move-in, the homes end up more expensive. Or they end up never built, because the delay makes them money-losers. In cities already suffering from a shortage of homes, either way, delay sends prices even higher.

Bertolet calls on existing research put a dollar figure to the cost of project approval delays in cities like Austin, San Francisco, and Seattle. In the latter's example, for a 135-unit apartment complex, "a two-month time reduction converts into a savings of $4,000 per unit."

Bertolet's analysis also digs into the issue of uncertainty, which is supposed to be a primary goal planning departments and land use regulations. Among examples of cities attempting to shorten time and increase certainty for development, Bertolet discusses the city of Portland's 2017 "Strategies for Accelerating Development," and the city of Seattle's expected changes to its design review process

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Published on Thursday, August 10, 2017 in Sightline Institute
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