An analysis of ways to maximize the efficiency of the NEPA environmental process at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Ramphul, Ryan Christian
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In light of the substantial sums of money that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) was awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, ways to maximize the efficiency of the agency’s various processes are highly sought after. The TDHCA environmental review process, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is one of the longest processes that people applying for federal funding through TDHCA must face. It is, therefore, a process that would substantially benefit the agency by being made more efficient. In this report, areas where applicants find the TDHCA environmental process to be difficult are illustrated by a systematic tabulation of the deficiency reviews sent to a sample of applicants from 2009. Additionally, survey data collected from people who submit environmental applications, and also people who review environmental applications, provides quantitative data about specific areas of the process where applicants meet with difficulty; and also qualitative data about where survey-takers feel the process could be made easier and more efficient. The data seems to indicate that applicants have significant difficulty knowing how to start the environmental process, the documents necessary, and how to fill out the necessary documents. In terms of suggestions, the results indicate that a more elaborate, user-friendly environmental webpage, complete with examples of required documents, and examples of how to fill them out, would make the environmental process exponentially easier for applicants. With the process being easier for applicants, TDHCA Environmental Specialists will hopefully not need to send out as many deficiency reviews to applicants, and will instead be able to review applications faster and issue environmental clearance quicker; thus making the process more efficient.