City officials say new audit findings show help is needed at the Department of Planning and Permitting
Honolulu appears to be bursting with new construction projects, but contractors, developers and residents can't seem to get their projects off the ground fast enough.
Why? Issues with the permitting review system at the city's Department of Planning and Permitting.
"There's no question that the Department of Planning and Permitting needs to do a better job in getting their permits out in a more timely way," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
A new audit found the department isn't keeping up with the demands of the building industry. The report says DPP does not properly administer its own rules on timely issuance of building permits. Plus programs like the one-time review 60 day program for one- and two-family dwellings aren't working.
According to the report, an average 2,500 outstanding permit applications roll over every year. The average wait time for residential permits is 3 and a half months. This is despite the fact that permit applications decreased by 21% from 2014 to 2018.
"It's not to say the Department of Planning and Permitting folks aren't working incredibly hard," said Caldwell.
This is not the first audit of the department.
What continues to be brought up is that DPP employees need help.
According to both Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Councilmember Kymberly Pine, DPP staffers battle low pay, high turnover, and even insufficient training.
The report recommends hiring more workers.
"DPP in my opinion needs a complete revamp of many things to be successful," said Pine. "We need to treat our employees better and pay them more."
There's also an issue with lax controls over appointments. The report found that some companies "monopolize" the appointments taking up more than 2 slots a day.
Auditors also found the department neglects to collect fees resulting in huge revenue losses for the city.
According to the report, the managing director and DPP broadly accepted the audit's findings and recommendations.
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