Building Permits Show that New Housing Construction in Lane County Remains Low

by Brian Rooney

March 27, 2018

Building permit data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that new housing construction in Lane County peaked in 2005 before the Great Recession and dropped dramatically from 2006 to 2009. Part of the reason for the drop was that the inventory of housing grew dramatically with an increase in prices and building leading up to the recession. In addition, the recession was characterized by job losses and mortgage foreclosures, which led to additional housing on the market and less demand, further increasing the inventory of available housing. Since then the level of permits as measured by living units has remained low compared with prerecession levels, even as inventory has tightened.

Labor market data shows that the economy in Lane County is improving. The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 13.2 percent in May 2009 to 4.3 percent in February 2018. The county has also gained back all of the 18,000 jobs lost in the Great Recession and is now roughly 2.0 percent above the prerecession peak. With the improvement, building permits have shown slow growth, going from a low of 550 units approved in 2010 to 717 approved in 2017.
Multi-unit structures of five or more units grew rapidly in 2013 and 2014 from a boom in student housing associated with the University of Oregon. Single family units have steadily increased since bottoming out in 2011, although they are still well below prerecession levels.

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