Ask any builder, remodeling contractor, plumber, electrician, etc. what it’s like to obtain permits and do a project in the city of Austin, and you’ll marvel at the uniformity of response. You’ll hear simply, “it stinks”.
Some won’t work in Austin at all anymore. I spoke with a small builder a couple of years ago about this. He had become so enraged at the bureaucracy and hassles that he had sworn off Austin, pledging to never build anything in the city limits again. At that time he was working on a custom home in Williamson County, where he said it was like night and day and he was treated like a valued customer, not a nuisance.
One of my former investment clients built a duplex neighborhood in Austin in the early 2000s. That was his last. He moved the business up near Ft. Worth and builds apartments and duplex communities in that area. He told me it just didn’t make sense to remain in Austin. Where he is now, from the time they identify land for a project and make the purchase, they can have all permitting in place and start work in less than 90 days. In Austin it took him more than 2 years just to get started on the last project he did, a community of about 50 duplexes. And they kept changing the rules on him along the way. He said that doesn’t cut it, and left Austin.
And so when I read in the Austn Business Journal a similar tale of “never again”, it came as no surprise.
By the time Centro Partners completed the first phase of The Domain with an Austin Energy three-star energy rating, the developers had their fill of being green the Austin utility way.
When it came time to do the second phase, “we didn’t even bother,” said Kent Collins, company partner. “I didn’t want to slow down our permitting process.”
Austin remains a difficult city in which to do business. Not just for developers, but even small investors.
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