The pressure on planning and building departments is constant. They must oversee private development to ensure communities are safe. They prepare for escalating demands on infrastructure, review development plans, inspect building methods and materials, and navigate a labyrinth of incoming applications, approvals and information requests.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions in the market have only added to existing pressures on community development personnel. The housing market slowed when the pandemic initially hit but picked up again later in 2020 and continues strong today. In fact, US housing construction is at its fastest pace since 2006.* For further context, in March, the Commerce Department reported a 19.4% increase in construction overall.* This high demand has government agencies working harder on tighter budgets brought on by the economic impact of the pandemic.
To meet these growing demands, many departments are modernizing, leaning on technology to fill service gaps, speed up processes and make services more accessible to residents. Yet the larger benefits of digital tools are not always apparent. Digitizing workflows and the logistics behind planning and building applications has the power to seed new opportunities for local governments to create a higher quality of life for residents.
As we turn to this week’s focus on ‘Training the Next Generation’ in support of the International Code Council’s month-long program to raise awareness about building safety, it’s important to acknowledge the role that well-trained, motivated building safety professionals leveraging modern tools and training play in creating and maintaining a successful built environment. Here are four significant benefits that result from technology modernization in government service delivery.
- Economic growth
Reducing the manual and labor-intensive work of master plan creation, plan reviews and approvals means more development and faster growing communities. When there is a bottleneck for planning and building applications, this limits the number of businesses that can find available commercial Real Estate, and in turn, the number local residents they can employ. Further, on the other side of the coin, when housing developers confront delays or setbacks in securing approvals for construction, this stops new residents from entering a community. When applications can be processed quickly this translates into more tax revenues and a stronger economy, which is particularly important as the nation starts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Create more livable communities
Automated workflows in the inspection and enforcement of planning and building codes ensures a community’s growth plans are achieved and they develop as intended. Additionally, digital tools can provide a clearer picture of a communities building landscape through accurate, shareable data. Elected leaders and department decision makers can utilize these reports to create zoning laws and code enforcement regulations that are more effective and representative of a community’s desires.
- Improved resident satisfaction
Making it easier for builders to do business with their local government improves citizen and business satisfaction and helps communities grow and thrive. Being able to interact in the process from a friendly website, instead of standing in line means builders can save time and money. And faster turnaround times means they can schedule jobs more effectively and do a better job of keeping development projects on schedule and on budget. Further, whether residents are doing things like a small home renovations or other smaller projects have a better experience if they can see the progress of applications. This is especially important to constituents as home improvement projects have skyrocketed with stay-at-home mandates in place.
- Better Management of Public Funds
The solution decreases phone calls, foot traffic, and paper handling and storage. Agencies become “greener” and reduce the public funds needed to process permits. Yet more importantly, funds saved can be redirected toward innovation, hiring fresh talent with new skillsets and supporting new initiatives and programs.
These benefits put steam behind technology modernization efforts to meet the evolving needs of both governments’ community development departments and their customers. Over the past year citizens have come to expect touchless technology solutions for things like permitting, plan reviews, inspections, and more from the convenience of their homes. And agencies across the nation are responding as 59% of government IT leaders plan to increase cloud adoption as a result of COVID-19.**
Government agencies today have been pushed to innovate and overcome challenges presented by the pandemic and will need to be ready for the next disruption. By modernizing service delivery solutions, they can rest assured they will be prepared.