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Permits Continue Strong in Texas and Carolinas

05/09/2011 by Jim Haughey, RCD Chief Economist

Nineteen cities are issuing housing permits at twice or more the rate per population as the rest of the country. Five cities are in Texas, with two more just over the border in Louisiana and Arkansas and six in the Carolinas and one just over the border in Georgia. The list also includes Des Moines and Omaha, close together in the central plains plus Nashville, Provo and Bradenton-Sarasota.

All of these cities are attracting new workers and businesses because of their low cost for both workers and business. Each of them has positive net immigration from elsewhere in the US in recent years through 2009 which likely is continuing. Also, each of these cities, except Bradenton-Sarasota had a relatively mild housing recession. Home price declines were very low because there was very little price surge in 2004-06. In turn, there was little price surge because the use of subprime mortgages was small and permitting was relatively quick and inexpensive so the housing supply was not seriously constrained.

Housing Permits per 1,000 population
(Population 500,000 or more) Ratio to
US average
El Paso 3.7
Little Rock 3.5
Des Moines 3.2
McAllen, TX 3.0
Houston 2.9
Austin 2.9
Raleigh 2.8
Charleston, SC 2.7
Columbia 2.7
Durham 2.5
Augusta, GA 2.2
Baton Rouge 2.2
Omaha 2.2
Charlotte 2.0
Bradenton-Sarasota 2.0
Nashville 2.0
Dallas 2.0
Provo 2.0
Greensboro 2.0
Source: Census Bureau

Twenty local markets have more building permits in the last three months than during the peak of the housing boom in late 2005 – early 2006. There are no large cities on the list. San Jose appeared briefly with a large spike in multi family permits last December. Each city has its own unique source of new jobs and new workers which more than offsets depressed national housing market trends. The dominating local trends include countercyclical expansion of local universities, military bases and newly discovered oil and gas fields.

Housing permit issuance in most of the large housing markets is well below the housing peak level and continues to ebb lower apart from the brief surge and collapse of permits caused by the homeowner tax credit.

Atlanta, long the largest housing market, has been at the top of this list for several years. The other extremely depressed housing market is Cape Coral-Ft. Myers which is by far the smallest market on the list.

The top single family permit list continues to be dominated by Texas and Carolina housing markets as well as Washington. The Houston housing market is now nearly twice as large as any other market.

Many of the same cities are also in the list of top twenty multi family markets along with Boston, San Jose, Miami, Minneapolis and San Francisco — where high land cost favor multi-family construction.

Largest Increase in Permits from
Early 2006 National Housing Boom Peak
(3 month total)
  Largest Decline in Permits from
Early 2006 National Housing Boom Peak
(3 month total)
Metro # of Permits   Metro # of Permits
Lake Charles, LA 268 Atlanta -14,876
College Station-Bryan, TX 150 Phoenix -11,451
Charlottesville, VA 100 Chicago -10,712
Valdosta, GA 62 New York -10,413
Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ 61 Riverside -10,196
Clarksville, TN-KY 52 Houston -8,626
Palm Coast, FL 44 Dallas -8,269
Bismarck, ND 18 Miami -7,810
Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA 16 Las Vegas -7,214
Burlington-South Burlington, VT 15 Cape Coral -6,078
Corvallis, OR 14 Tampa -5,611
Fort Wayne, IN 13 Los Angeles -5,608
Jacksonville, NC 12 Orlando -4,914
Jonesboro, AR 12 San Antonio -4,675
Odessa,TX 10 Lakeland -4,427
Cedar Rapids, IA 7 Jacksonville -4,404
Casper, WY 6 Austin -4,238
Grand Forks, ND-MN 2 Washington -4,063
Danville, IL 1 Denver -3,840
Fort Smith, AR-OK 1 Charlotte -3,726
Source: Census Bureau
Top Single Family Permit Metros   Top Multi Family Permit Metros
Metro SF Permits
Last 12 Months
  Metro MF Permits
Last 12 Months
Houston 20,887 New York 11,879
Dallas-Fort Worth 12,466 Dallas 7,276
Washington 9,083 Los Angeles 7,266
New York City 6,770 Houston 4,740
Phoenix 6,456 Washington 3,491
Atlanta 6,054 San Jose 3,283
Seattle 5,816 Seattle 3,272
Austin 5,807 Chicago 3,201
Philadelphia 4,940 Boston 2,821
San Antonio 4,621 San Francisco 2,481
Riverside 4,347 Miami 2,291
Tampa 4,285 Philadelphia 2,256
Raleigh 4,210 Little Rock 2,158
Chicago 4,146 Tampa 1,909
Los Angeles 4,053 Fayetteville, NC 1,869
Las Vegas 3,927 Austin 1,789
Charlotte 3,846 San Diego 1,773
Orlando 3,760 El Paso 1,562
St. Louis 3,725 Indianapolis 1,556
Nashville 3,603 Minneapolis 1,522
Source: Census Bureau

For more information, please see US Metro Housing Markets – March 2011 – Cities 1-180.


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