Construction still sluggish iun Polk Co.

Published 5:34 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

Construction activity in Polk County remains well below pre-recession levels, although an uptick in building permits in March hinted at recovery.
The Polk County Building Inspection office recorded five permits in March for new residential construction and one for new commercial construction with a total value of $3,002,868.
The number of permits was double what the county had in March of 2009, and the total value of the new construction was up $1.04 million from a year ago.
The six permits for new residential and commercial construction in March was one more than the total for January and February of this year combined. In the 12 months prior to March, Polk County averaged about four permits per month for new commercial and residential construction.
Despite the improvement in March, construction activity still lags far behind levels seen through the first eight years of this decade.
From 2000 to 2007, Polk County averaged 171 permits a year, or more than 14 per month, just for new residential construction. At the height of construction activity here, Polk County recorded 218 building permits for new residential construction in 2003.
The value of new single family residential construction peaked in 2006 at $37.8 million with 191 permits.
Construction dipped in 2007 to 164 permits with a total value of $35.4 million and plummeted in 2008 to 91 permits with a value of $20.7 million.
Last year was even worse. Construction slowed further to a total of 53 new single family residences valued at just $11.8 million.
The number of permits last year was down 42 percent from 2008, and down 76 percent from the high in 2003.
The value of the new construction last year was down 43 percent from 2008 and down 69 percent from the high for construction value in 2006.
Based on the total in the first quarter of this year, Polk County is on pace to end the 2010 with even lower figures than last year.
The nine new residential permits in the first quarter was two less than the first quarter of 2009, and the value of residential construction in the first quarter was down $162,942 from a year ago.
So far this year the homes that are being built are of higher value than in the past.
The average value of single family homes built in Polk County rose rapidly leading up to the recession. The average jumped from $102,247 in a very busy construction year in 2003 to $227,004 when activity dropped off sharply in 2008.
Last year the number of permits dropped substantially again, but the value of new homes held almost steady at $221,964.
During the first quarter of 2010, the average value of new homes was $273,652. Thats up 13 percent from the average value in the first quarter of 2009.
The number of homes built is expected to start rising too as the economy recovers, although its unclear when or how fast activity will pick up.
The inspection office expressed hope that the increase in permits in March was the beginning of a comeback for the local construction industry.
While only one permit has been issued so far this month for new residential construction, the building inspection office has issued eight permits for additions and/or renovations. The inspection office adds contractors continue to report that they are receiving more calls about potential jobs.
Polk building inspection officer Steve Jones has said the spring season will give a better indication of how the rest of the year will turn out for new construction.

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