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Building permit numbers take tiny tick upward

By Staff | May 28, 2011

There were more single family permits issued in May of 2005 in Cape Coral than all of 2009-2010 combined, but the building industry is hopeful that recent increases in permitting is a sign that construction is returning.
While May’s numbers are not yet available, single family permitting in the city has increased in April between 2009-2011.
Only 9 permits for single family homes were issued in April 2009; 14 permits were issued in 2010; and 26 permits were issued this year.
There were also three permits issued for new commercial construction in April, while there were none in March. And there were 20 permits issued for remodels or additions, up from 11 in March.
Cape Coral Construction Industry Association Executive Director Heather Mazurkiewicz said the mood among CCCIA members is a positive one, and that recent permitting increases reflect a positive step for the industry.
“There’s definitely a hint of optimism in the air,” she said. “There have been upticks in the amount of permits for single family and commercial. There’s also been upticks in our membership, which are all good signs for our recovery.”
United Homebuilders of SW Florida is one builder that recently re-opened its doors.
Owner Joe Sealey ceased operations in 2009 after realizing a bust was upon the region, if not the nation. But before he left, Sealey cut his spec homes, paid off contractors and subs, and pulled all his credit facilities to weather the storm.
Between 2003-2009, United had built over 500 homes, Sealey said.
“We built good homes and I’m proud of what we did here, we just couldn’t continue based on the volume we had,” Sealey said. “When we left we didn’t owe anyone anything. We left clean. That’s why I feel good about coming back.”
Sealey said he started to notice some change in the fourth quarter of 2010 and decided it was time to restart operations.
Since opening his office on South Del Prado Boulevard, Sealey said he’s had seven customers, two of which resulted in new contracts.
Sealey said it was key for the building industry to find certain niche markets for the road to recovery.
“We just wanted to be prepared when the time was right,” he said. “It was not without pain, but we were able to survive and come back. We’re not going to build as many homes but we’ll be respected.”
Single family home permitting in unincorporated Lee County has been flat so far in 2011. Thirty permits were pulled for homes in both April 2010 and 2011, a far cry from 2005 when 721 permits were pulled in the same month.
Lee County Department of Community Development Communications Manager Joan LaGuardia estimated that an average month for single family home permits would be in 120 – 300 range.
LaGuardia added that numbers from 2010 through April of this year might not represent an actual return for the construction industry in unincorporated Lee, and instead could mean some builders are merely finishing projects that stalled after the bust.
“Some of these are infill lots and developments that contractors are trying to finish up. It doesn’t mean a family is finishing a house,” she said.
Paul Dickson, the city’s chief building inspector, said that his office has been just as busy, if not busier, than the days of the boom, but his staff has been reduced and the workload has increased.
“It’s exceptionally busy right now,” Dickson said. “The number of items we’ve been handling each day, it’s as high or higher (than during the boom),” he said.