Question: Department of Buildings Reform Needed for Homeowners in Brooklyn?

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    As any Brooklyn homeowner set on a major renovation knows, the City’s Department of Buildings permitting process is expensive, time consuming, and opaque. And it has only gotten worse in the last year or so, as we experience a building boom and the City has increased requirements for such things as sprinklers, according to what we hear from readers on the Forum and elsewhere.

    Last month the City’s Department of Buildings announced a major reform initiative. This followed 50 arrests in a massive bribery scandal that erupted earlier this year.

    Reform strategies include spending $120 million, eliminating in-person visits with an entirely virtual process, hiring an additional 320 employees over four years, a new fee structure, and creating one building code to speed up the permitting process.

    How exactly this would affect individual homeowners renovating 100-year-old buildings or apartments in Brooklyn is unclear, and we have reached out to the department’s press office for more details, but have not yet heard back.

    For example, would a unified building code make things easier or more complicated for homeowners renovating old buildings that often do not comply with elements of today’s building code?

    Filing fees for developers are going up. Will filing fees for individual homeowners decrease or stay the same?

    Meanwhile, wait times for permits are so long, some homeowners are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or have lost their construction loans, according to comments and questions in the Forum. Here are a few typical recent comments:

    “Good luck. Took seven months to get an Alt-1 approval.”

    “We’re six months into waiting for our Alt-1. Adding 10-foot extension.”

    “We start demo soon because we’re filing an Alt-2 first, but that seven-month timeline for just an approval is scary.”

    Is the DOB process for homeowners in Brooklyn broken? What reforms, if any, do you believe are needed?

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