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Fast Track Permitting

Time is money when it comes to building housing.  Jurisdictions can help reduce the cost of affordable or mixed-income housing in transit zones by expediting permitting approvals for these kinds of projects.  Expedited permitting helps in two ways – it can lower the costs of holding land in advance of construction, and it helps inject greater certainty into the development process, which can in turn lower the cost of financing. 

Expediting can occur by:

  • Prioritizing the review of transit zone projects,
  • Establishing set time periods for decisions on applications,
  • Creating “one-stop,” multi-agency review committees,
  • Assigning a project expediter within local government staff for each transit zone project, or
  • Utilizing other techniques that emerge as a result of a jurisdiction taking comprehensive look at how to streamline and coordinate the various approvals processes for development projects without compromising other public interests such as safety, health and quality of life. 
Case Studies

Massachusetts

About 15 years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) instituted a program called Fast Track Permitting, which incorporates a set of environmental policies and procedures, promoting smart growth and economic development across the state. Businesses are able to get expedited administrative and technical reviews for all eligible projects such as biotech, energy, transit-oriented development, brownfield redevelopment, solid waste recycling facilities and smart growth projects. The Fast Track Permitting program also guarantees negotiated permit schedules and fees, one single point of contact throughout the permitting process and the promotion of smart growth and protection of natural resources.

Austin, Texas

Austin provides expedited permit reviews to transit-oriented projects with affordable housing as part of its SMART program (Safe, Mixed-Income, Accessible, Reasonably-Priced, Transit-Oriented). During the first three years of the program, the average completion time for SMART Housing reviews was approximately half the time of conventional reviews. In the Bay Area, permitting processes could be fast tracked for all housing developments proposed for transit zones, or just for affordable housing within walking distance of transit.

Resources