County growth stymied by economy, too many unsold houses

Published 1:44 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Residential county growth has hit a wall caused the current economy and saturated housing market.

Construction of single family residential homes has been hindered, down by more than 100 homes from the previous year. Planning and Development Director Dr. Ed Pinero Jr. said in 2007 there were 285 permits for new homes. In contrast, only 153 residential permits were filed in 2008.

Even the total number of building permits of all kinds declined in 2008 as compared to 2007. In 2007 the Planning and Development Department issued 2,970 permits. That number dropped by more than 800 in 2008 to 2,105 permits issued. Those totals include any electrical, mechanical and renovation work and also new construction in the county.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Commercial construction did see an increase from the previous year. Pinero said 37 permits were issued for commercial construction in 2007. In 2008 five more permits were issued, for a total of 42.

Mobile homes also saw an increase. In 2007 319 permits were issued for mobile homes. In 2008 there was a slight increase to 340 permits issued. That increase in mobile homes could be attributed to the current state of the economy, Pinero said.

“Because of the economy, we find more people moving toward mobile homes because they have looser loan requirements,” Pinero said.

Pinero expects that trend to continue through 2009 and possibly through 2010. While the county is considering a moratorium on mobile home subdivisions, there are no regulations on placing mobile homes on single parcels. The possible moratorium the supervisors were discussing on mobile home subdivisions was based on a need to regulate density problems that some mobile home parks create.

There has been an increase in the construction of duplex and multifamily construction, due to the abundance of Mississippi Development Authority grant funds, which are subsidizing their construction, Pinero said.

The increase in commercial development could be attributed to commercial developers receiving the insurance money due them from Hurricane Katrina damage. Now, buildings that were previously sitting vacant are being replaced or renovated. The construction of churches, which also has increased, is included in the commercial figures.

Single family residential construction has declined due to the current over abundance of inventory. Pinero said he was told by the Realtor Association that there are about 600 new homes still on the market.

“That’s a lot of empty houses,” Pinero said.

Those remaining homes are attributed to the current state of the economy and the over construction of homes immediately after Katrina. After the storm developers over estimated the number of people who would be relocating to this county. One of the contributing factors for the over estimation was caused by Louisiana’s Road Home program, which offered grant funds to Louisiana families who moved back to their hometowns to rebuild, Pinero said.

“I think it was less a symptom of the economy as it was overbuilding,” Pinero said.

To help promote more construction of single family homes in the more affordable price range, the board has decided to waive all permit and inspection fees for all single family construction. That fee waiver will last until March 31, Pinero said. During that time permits and inspections will still be required but the associated fees will not be charged.