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REAL ESTATE : Building Permits Back on Record Pace as County Reacts to Slow-Growth Loss

Compiled by Michael Flagg, Times staff writer

Suspecting that county voters might pass a slow-growth initiative in June, home builders got thousands of building permits from local governments in the spring.

After voters rejected the initiative, the number of permits obtained by builders plummeted in July because builders had already taken out so many earlier in the year as legal protection against a possible moratorium.

As of August, however, permits were rising again, so it looks as if more houses will be built this year than ever before in the county, the Construction Industry Research Board said in Burbank.

On the other hand, the number of new multifamily housing units--apartments and condominiums--could be down sharply this year.

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In large part that is because of federal tax changes that make apartments less profitable, said Ben Bartolotto, research director at the industry board.

Permits are a reliable indicator of how much construction is planned by builders because construction ordinarily begins shortly after permits are obtained.

Through August, builders got permits for 8,234 houses, up from 6,854 last year. Most of the increase came in unincorporated areas that would have been most susceptible to construction slowdowns from the initiative.

Should the trend continue, builders will have obtained permits for about 11,000 houses by the end of the year, Bartolotto estimated. If the trend in sales continues, buyers will continue to snap up nearly every one of them.

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By comparison, in 1984-87--four of the five full years since the recession ended in 1982--the industry built 9,000 to 10,000 houses a year, according to the board’s figures.

In multifamily housing, however, it is another story. Through August of this year, builders obtained permits for 8,515 units; last year it was 12,196.

Bartolotto said there will probably be fewer multifamily permits this year than last year, the same as the rest of the state.


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