November 2, 2018

City Changes the Rules Causing Major Backlog in Home Building

Austin: Area builders have had a difficult couple of months with historic rainfalls and flooding bringing many builders to a standstill as t

hey wait for their sites to dry out. On Monday, the City of Austin’s Environmental Inspection Division of the Development Services Department began “Red Tagging” homes for minor violations without notice.  A red tag brings the job to a halt until Environmental Inspectors can revisit the site to clear it. On Monday (October 29), inspectors targeted 2,223 active building sites in the city, 1,093 of which are residential.

“Builders adhere to strict environmental standards at their sites, using “mulch socks,” silt fences and other erosion controls to contain sediment runoff,” said David Glenn, Director of Government Relations for the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.  “We have not seen any evidence from the city indicating that sediment runoff from job sites has been a problem. The vast majority of builders comply with the cities regulations.”

Predictability in the building industry is essential to build homes on time and on budget. Environmental inspectors typically visit a jobsite once per month to make sure builders are complying with regulations. If controls are not met, often due to deliveries or other active work, builders are typically given a 24 hours notice to rectify problems. Under normal circumstances, red tags involve repeated or severe violations.

“They changed the rules without notice,” said Scott Turner, owner of Riverside Homes and the Austin Business Journal’s 2018 Green Builder of the Year. “It is unnecessary and unexpected to be red tagged for something that last week was not considered a violation. After 8 weeks of rain delays, everyone just wants to get back to work, but now we are not sure how long we have to wait to get this cleared.”

Anytime there are delays, it causes a ripple effect. Builders schedule various tradesmen and skilled laborers to work at each site. When a site is closed down, for weather or otherwise, the delay is amplified as busy trades are difficult to rotate back in to a project that has been halted unexpectedly.

“Erosion controls are important and our builders want to be good stewards of the neighborhoods in which they work, but any time the city wants to execute and initiative like this, there needs to be open communication between the city and the building community to so our builders have time to adjust without disrupting the development process. Even still, we will work with Environmental Inspections to clear the red tags and look forward to cooperating with them in future compliance efforts,” Glenn said. “We value our partnership with DSD and we will be meeting with them in the coming days to go over lessons learned.”

Glenn speaks to KLBJ about Red Monday HERE.

For more information, contact David Glenn, Director of Government Relations and Policy at david@hbaaustin.com.