Residential Building Permits in the Columbia Basin, 2008-2014

Residential Building Permits in the Columbia Basin, 2008-2014

by Dallas Fridley

January 4, 2016

Building permits, as reported by the Census Bureau's Building Permits Survey, indicate that the Great Recession had a measureable impact on the Columbia Basin, with a recovery yet to take hold.

Before the arrival of the Great Recession, back in 2006, Morrow County permitted 30 single family homes, which was its best year since 2004 with 20 single family homes permitted. Single family home construction dropped off in 2009 and again in 2010, falling to just five units.

Single family housing continued to sputter but multi-unit housing permits, which are few and far between in Morrow County, hit a milestone in 2011, with 40 units permitted. The following year, two more multi-unit permits were issued. Prior to 2011, Morrow County permitted just four multi-unit permits back in 2004. It's hard to call the welcomed addition of multi-unit permits in Morrow County a recovery since it is appears to be such a rarity.

Single family permits in Morrow County rose to 19 units in 2013 followed by 16 units in 2014; still well below the housing bubble's peak in 2006 (30 units).
The impacts of the Great Recession were far more prominent in Umatilla County. 2006 represented the peak for Umatilla County's housing bubble, with 131 single family units and 103 multi-unit permits issued. Umatilla County's single family permits were slightly higher in 2005, at 141 units but with 79 multi-unit permits. 2004 also produced a slightly higher level of single family permits, with 132 issued along with 42 multi-units.

Compared with longer term building permit trends, the housing bubble was at best a mild event in Umatilla County. Umatilla County's best year (since 1990) actually came in 2002 when it issued 189 single family and 136 multi-unit permits. Total building permits (single family and multi-unit) rose above 100 units back in 1995 and stayed above that level for more than two decades, ending in 2007. In 2014, the county saw an increase with 93 single family units issued. However, lacking multi-unit permits, Umatilla County remained well below even historic levels going back to 1995.