Douglas County Building Permits Drop Slightly in 2020

by Brian Rooney

June 15, 2021

Building permit data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that new housing construction in Douglas County, as measured by permits for living units, dropped slightly to 243 in 2020 from 270 in 2019 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Although down from 2019, it is well above the Great Recession low of 100 in 2011.

Building permits in Douglas County peaked in 2005 before the Great Recession and dropped dramatically from 2006 to 2011. The recession was characterized by job losses and mortgage foreclosures, which led to additional housing on the market and less demand, increasing the inventory of available housing. Since then, the level of permits as measured by living units has remained low compared with pre-Great Recession levels even as inventory has tightened.
The drop could have been worse in 2020 considering the pandemic-induced recession. Unlike previous recessions though, demand and prices in the housing market increased during the pandemic. According to the database, demand as measured by median days on the market dropped from 101 days in February 2020 to less than 67 days in May and reached no higher than 78 days for the rest of the year. Correspondingly, price increases as measured by Zillow’s Home Value Index accelerated, going from an increase of 7.3% in 2019 to 9.2% in 2020.

The construction industry in Douglas County may have benefitted from the strong housing market and number of building permits. Annual average employment data shows that the construction industry was one of the least affected by COVID restrictions, losing only 20 jobs, or 1.1% in 2020 compared with 3.3% for total employment.

The 2020 building permit data shows almost all building permits in Douglas County are for single-family home construction at 235. There were eight units in buildings of two to four units and none in buildings of five units or more.

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