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Builders Cut Back on Single-Family Houses as Sales Slow

Compiled by Michael Flagg Times staff writer

Sales are slow and inventories of unsold houses growing, so Orange County’s home builders are cutting back construction of single-family homes in a big way.

Through May, the latest figures available, local governments issued builders about 50% fewer building permits than last year, says the Construction Industry Research Board in Burbank. The research board counted only 1,670 permits issued through the first five months of this year, or 54% fewer than the 3,620 issued during the same period last year.

The state’s other urban areas didn’t drop nearly as much. Altogether California’s cities issued 23% fewer permits this year than last.

But Orange County bucked the statewide trend in multifamily housing, which includes both condominiums--attached housing units generally less expensive than houses--and apartments.

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The Orange County numbers were actually up 10%, to 3,970 permits this year from 3,600 last year, according to the research board.

Across the state’s urban areas, the number of multifamily building permits dropped 5%.

The county’s office market is also slowing down as fewer tenants look for space. Permits for office construction are also down--by 39%--which is a good sign, because permits are a fairly reliable indicator of future construction. Orange County’s problem is that while demand for office space is still relatively strong, there is so much office space that demand can’t begin to fill it all.

The construction slowdown, which other experts also have noted, is a welcome sign for many landlords.

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