Denver housing boom fueling building permit backlog

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DENVER -- Fred Beck said he has the cleanest garage in Denver.

“Only because I have spent a lot of money storing stuff off-site. I’m losing money month-by-month-by month," he said.

The Highlands homeowner applied for a city permit to build a bigger garage and mother-in-law apartment in March. He was told to expect approval by April 8.

Instead, “They don’t return your calls or when they do they promise soon but never when," he said.

A spokeswoman for Denver’s Department of Planning Community Development said permit reviews used to take four weeks, but now the average is eight weeks.

“We’re seeing near historic demand for permits in Denver right now. Right now more and more people want to live here, build here, reinvest in their homes, reinvest in their businesses," said Andrea Burns, communications director for the city’s permitting office.

In 2013, Denver issued 55,252 permits. In 2014, the figure jumped 24 percent to 67,818 permits and 2015 is on pace for a similar figure.

But Beck’s contractor, Jared Phifer with Revolve Construction, said that still doesn’t explain Denver’s inability to issue permits in a timely manner.

“I wish we could go to Jefferson County because they review in the same day and have no problems over there," he said.

“I think a lot of homeowners are going to just skip the permit system entirely, which is really unfortunate because they're going to get less reputable contractors,” Beck said.

Burns said the city is concerned impatient homeowners might get work done without a permit, which is why she said the city is hiring more staff, paying overtime and just brought in a third-party firm to review permit applications.

When FOX31 asked about the status of Beck’s permit application, Burns said, “I don’t know where it stands today, but it should get a quick turnaround in terms of the first review and if there’s any changes then it will come in for a second review.”

Beck said after four months of waiting, he’s not holding his breath.

“How long does it really take to review each permit?” he asked.