Home builders enjoy boom year | TheUnion.com

Home builders enjoy boom year

AP graphicMonthly housing starts for the past 12 months.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

WASHINGTON – Construction of new homes and apartments posted an unexpectedly strong gain of 5 percent in December as the housing industry wrapped up its best performance in 16 years, a building boom fueled by the lowest mortgage rates in four decades.

In Nevada County, contractors continued to be busy putting up new homes after the construction sector – one of the county’s largest – took off in the late 1990s.

“It was pretty busy last year,” said Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association. “The year before, it was almost a frenzied pace it was so busy. Last year, it slowed down a bit to a more manageable rate.”

Though Nevada County’s building permit activity was down 2 percent from 2001, it was still a strong year for one of the county’s biggest economic sectors.

“It still has been a very active year,” said Clinton McKinley, the county’s director of building.

The Nevada County Building Department reported 390 home building permits taken out in 2002.

The county’s building permit activity – reflecting permits taken out in preparation to break ground on a home – is the closest local approximation to housing start activity reported by the Commerce Department.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that construction activity climbed to an annual rate of 1.84 million units in December, the highest monthly pace since June 1986 and well above economists’ expectations.

In addition, the government revised November activity higher to show builders were starting new units at an annual rate of 1.75 million units during that month, 5.2 percent above the October level.

For all of 2002, builders began construction on 1.70 million new homes and apartments, a 6.4 percent gain from the 1.60 million units constructed in 2001. It was the best year for construction of single-family homes and apartments since 1.81 million units were built in 1986.

For just single-family homes, the 1.36 million units that were begun in 2002 represented the strongest performance since 1978.

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