Homebuilding permits in unincorporated Clark County soar 68%

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
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Homebuilding activity continued to gain strength in unincorporated Clark County in August, as builders ramped up to serve an influx of aging baby boomers and white-collar workers relocating to the area.

But the 47 permits handed out in August — up nearly 68 percent from the same month last year — wasn't anywhere near the number of housing starts the month generated a decade ago in Clark County, when the local homebuilding community could easily rack up a monthly total of 200 new homes.

Last month, the county's Department of Community Development handed out 47 permits to build houses. It was a nearly 68 percent increase over the 28 permits issued in the same month last year, although it was down 26 percent from the 64 permits handed out in July, generally one of the busiest months of the year for new-home construction.

New-home permits in August were valued at $15.4 million in unincorporated Clark County, up from $11 million in the same month last year, the development department reported.

Today's buyers are cautiously treading back into

the market to get in on low mortgage interest rates and the lower price of materials, said Jon Girod, owner and president of Vancouver-based Quail Custom Homes.

Girod, who said job relocations are another factor contributing to the uptick in building, said he is seeing more wealthier buyers, some of whom have already purchased land to build on.

"People being relocated for work are the white-collar workers and they want the better locations," he said, adding that many are interested in east county school districts and job corridors along 164th and 192nd avenues.

Both routes serve employers that recently relocated to the area. They include PeaceHealth, a hospital system which has moved its Bellevue-based headquarters into east Vancouver's Columbia Tech Center, and California-based Fisher Investments, a large investment firm which opened a satellite office in Camas in November.

Girod said he is also seeing more baby boomers relocate to Clark County, which, in the no-income-tax state of Washington, has long provided a shelter for retirees arriving from Oregon and California.

Girod said at least some of those baby boomers — people ages 48 to 66 — make the move to Clark County to be closer to family.

"I have several clients relocating because their kids and grandkids are here," he said.

Permit totals have also increased for new-home construction within Vancouver's city limits, growing by nearly three times in the first seven months of the year compared with the same period in 2011.

Data available from January through July shows the city has issued 187 permits valued at $17.4 million to build single-family homes, The total is up from 65 permits valued at $10.5 million handed out during the same seven months of 2011.