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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Through the roof: Local construction snaps downtrend with best year since '08

  • Construction permits for single- and multi-family homes increasing for first year since 2008
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  • Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of articles examining the local economy. The first installment, covering local manufacturing, appeared Sept. 30. The second, examining the Highway 63 bypass' impact on Baltimore Street businesses, appeared Oct. 7. The third, investigating vacant commercial spaces, appeared Oct. 21. The fourth, looking at local costs of doing business, appeared Oct. 28.
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    New home construction in Kirksville has snapped a four-year downtrend with more single-family housing construction permits issued to date in 2012 than both 2011 and 2010 combined.
    Kirksville's resurgent housing and construction market is also boosted by the fact the city has as many multi-family housing construction permits for 2012 as it did in a four-year span from 2008 to 2011. The last time the city saw such significant growth in new single- and multi-family housing construction was 2008.
    That year is also significant as the generally-recognized start of the recent U.S. recession, marked by turmoil in the housing, credit and financial markets, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    But with the city issuing 26 single-family construction permits for 2012 so far, city officials are optimistic that the local economy has turned the corner.
    "We've had some up and down years," said Kirksville Codes and Planning Director Brad Selby. "But this is probably one of the best years, mostly for residential construction is where we've seen the increase."
    As of October 31, the city had issued 26 permits for single family construction on the year, far outpacing 2011's 11, 2010's 13 and 2009's 15.
    In the past seven years, this year's construction is not bested, with 25 permits issued in 2008 and 24 issued in 2006 for construction of single-family homes.
    "It's kind of like maybe the economy has turned around some," Selby said.
    Representatives with Heritage House Realty and Century 21, two local realtors, both said 2012 has been their best year since the recession.
    "We've had a really good year," said Mark Whitney, with Century 21. He noted that the Midwest was not hit as hard by the housing market collapse in 2008 and that because local lenders had been conservative, fewer residents had lost their homes to foreclosure.
    The boom has not been contained to just single-family home construction, with the city seeing as much multi-family unit construction in 2012 as it did from 2008 to 2011.
    In 2012, the city has issued eight permits for multi-family construction projects and one duplex, the same number it issued over a four-year period starting in 2008.
    Mike LaBeth, with Heritage House Realty, said currently the agency is involved in more multi-family unit construction than single-family, however, both are on the increase since 2008 and 2009.
    "We've got a lot of older houses coming down and newer duplexes going up," he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Heritage House demolished two such houses on Franklin Street over the summer and is in the process of completing three multi-plex units in their place.
    Demolitions, whether of single-family homes or otherwise, is also increasing, with demolition rate taking an about 30 percent decrease from the average of 30 a year during 2008 and 2009.
    However, those troublesome years with slower growth were buoyed by some larger commercial construction projects, with nine commercial construction permits issued for new projects in 2010 and seven permits issued in 2009.
    For 2012, commercial construction has slowed, with only two such permits issued thus far.
    Selby said from the city's perspective, the growth in housing construction is promising and potentially spurred by recent local developments, including the new A.T. Still University dental school, which is to be open in 2013.
    "Of course, with the work at the Northeast Missouri Health Council and A.T. Still, those are two big commercial projects that have really helped," he said.
    He said he had no doubt some of the boom was at least partially driven by the new dental school and its crew of professors and students that will be future residents.
    Both LaBeth and Whitney touched upon historically-low interest rates as also being a significant factor in the increased construction.
    With low rates, home buyers now can save significant amounts of money for many years potentially feeding the boom in new housing.
    "With interest rates as low as they are, it increases activity because people, especially with the fixed-rate market, get locked in for 15 or 30 years and people can get more house now than they ever were able to," Labeth said.

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