Monday, July 12, 2010

Many Cities Across U.S. Issuing More Housing Permits than during Boom

Reed Construction Data

Des Moines, Charleston, Austin, Columbia and Houston are the strongest large metro housing markets. These are the only cities with a population over 500,000 that issued permits/1000 population at more than three times the national pace over the last year.

Twenty-four smaller cities also had intense housing development at a rate per 1000 population more than three times the national average. This set includes two cities rebuilding from hurricane destruction of homes, several college towns and military base cities, resort and retirement cities in North Carolina and the Rocky Mountains and three market center cities in the Plains states. Several of the resort/retirement cities were part of the 2004-06 housing boom but the rest of the twenty-four cities sat out the boom so they have relatively minor foreclosure and underwater mortgage problems now.

The four large Texas metro areas continue to dominate the list of the largest single family housing markets. Together, they account for nearly 37% of the permits over the last year among the twenty cities issuing the most permits. Las Vegas, Phoenix, Riverside, Tampa, Austin, San Antonio and Orlando are the only housing boom cities still left on the top twenty list. Washington has moved up to third place on the strength of tens of thousands of new federal jobs. Atlanta, the largest housing market for several years has dropped to 7th place due to a weak Georgia economy and a large surplus of unsold homes. Fifteen metro areas, all manufacturing centers without any of today’s high growth industries, have issued less than two permits a month over the last year. Sandusky Ohio has issued no permits and Wheeling West Virginia has issued only one permit.

New York City remains by far the largest multi family permit metro. The recent credit based recession caused much less damage to the New York City economy than expected. Construction activity remains relatively strong partly due to the mild recession and partly because the permitting process is so long and so expensive that developers are always in a catch up mode. Permits are up from a year ago in many college and oil patch towns that escaped both the 2005-06 housing boom and the worst of the ongoing economic recession. San Francisco has returned to the list of top multi family markets due to hiring by its growing technology industries. Other markets that have recently become significant are Salt Lake City (low cost attracts new jobs and residents) and Virginia Beach (a lower cost alternative to South Florida).

Forty-five cities issued more housing permits in the three months ending in March than they did at the peak of the housing boom in late 2005/early 2006. All of these cities are very small markets except for El Paso, Buffalo and Rochester. This should not be interpreted as a list of cities leading the housing market or the economy out of recession. These cities simply missed most of the recession as they did the previous housing boom. Many of them have a locally unique housing demand driver. In El Paso, it is immigration. In Bismarck and Grand Forks, it is a strong farm economy.

Atlanta and Phoenix continue to have the largest declines in homebuilding relative to the peak of the housing boom. The twenty cities on the list are all suffering from the surplus supply created during several years of overbuilding, as with Houston apartments. Excepting, New York City, each of them has an unusually large inventory of homes for sale and a high incidence of foreclosures and underwater mortgages that will keep inventory excessive well into next year and possibly beyond in Florida and the Rocky Mountains.

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