Company News

Housing Starts Outpace National, Regional Trends

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Large production home-builders haven’t operated in the Youngstown-Warren area since the 1950s when annual housing starts were in the thousands.

And while the Great Recession put some of the region’s home builders out of business, sent some to other markets or forced them to focus on remodeling, the ones who have remained are seeing increased housing starts at rates that outpace other parts of the country.

Single-family housing starts in March rose to 902,000 nationally, an increase of 2.9%, and are up 2.9% year-over-year, reports the Homes Builders & Remodelers Association of the Valley.

In the Midwest, single-family starts in March dropped 14.9% over February to 155,000, with year-over-year starts down 36.8%. Ohio’s single-family permits were up by 6.5% to 2,143.

The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metropolitan area, which includes parts of western Pennsylvania, fared much better. At the end of March, single-family permits year-to-date were up 80% to 27.

“While remodeling remains strong, new-home construction continues to grow at a consistent pace comparable to numbers from the early 1980s, which was considered to be a time of regrowth as well,” says Jennie Brewer, executive officer with the HBA of the Valley.

First-quarter 2018 was trending above last year’s starts, but the second quarter may see some drops because of the delay in warm weather, Brewer says.

In 2017, Mahoning County saw 134 housing starts, down from 142 in 2016.

With the third quarter typically the strongest of the year and with historically mild weather through November, she says HBA is “cautiously optimistic” for a good year in new-house construction.

“So much so that we are planning to bring back our HBA Showcase of Homes this fall for the first time in 13 years,” she says.

In 2017, the average cost of a new house in Mahoning County was $227,000 and $167,000 in Trumbull County. Lot costs ranged from $35,000 to more than $100,000.

This March, multifamily housing starts fell by 26.1% to 334,000 over February, and were down 18.7% year-over-year.

Regionally, multifamily starts increased 126.1% in March to 52,000 and were up 173.7% year-over-year.

Ohio’s multifamily permits dropped 28.8% year-over-year, while the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area recorded five such permits, up from zero a year ago.

Nationally, house prices increased 1.5% over fourth-quarter 2017 and 6.4% year-over-year. They are 8.6% above their boom-related peak in the second quarter of 2007.

In Ohio, house prices increased 1.0% over fourth quarter 2017 and 5.8% year-over-year. The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area saw its prices increase 2.3% over fourth quarter 2017 and 5.4% over the past year.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing market index reports sentiment among builders for single-family housing fell one point to 70 nationally.

Any value above 50 means more builders are seeing improvement rather than decline. In January 2009, the index hit a low of eight.

Regionally, the index fell five points to 65 in March, and is down from 72 in March 2017. In December 2008, the regional index hit a low of six.

The top issues facing builders, according to the trade group, are workforce development, lot development, financing constraints and government regulations.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.