REAL ESTATE : Home Building Permits Plunge After Slow-Growth Issue Sparks Stockpiling

Compiled by Michael Flagg, Times staff writer

Building permits for single-family houses in Orange County plummeted from a 15-year high in June to only a handful in July after a slow-growth initiative that had builders stockpiling permits was defeated by voters.

After issuing 2,300 permits in June, local governments issued only 174 in July, said the Construction Industry Research Board in Burbank.

“There was nothing left for builders to get permits for,” said Ben Bartolotto, the board’s research director.

But the pace of construction in the county probably won’t slow much anytime soon as builders use up their stockpiled permits.


A drop in building permits in July isn’t anything new. Permits issued by local governments across the state normally fall in July. This year permits for single-family houses, apartments and condominiums dropped statewide by 29%.

But in Orange County the drop was a steep 75%, from 4,000 units of single-family houses, apartments and condominiums to 1,000, because so many permits were issued in the spring before the June 7 primary election.

July’s numbers were also a drop of 64% from July, 1987, when 3,000 units were issued, according to the research board.

Housing construction statewide--and in Orange County--is expected to drop again this year after peaking in 1986.


The reasons, Bartolotto says, are higher interest rates, which are expected to slice demand, and growth restrictions.

Meanwhile, builders are rushing again to get permits, Bartolotto said, this time in Riverside County, where another slow-growth initiative goes before the voters in November.