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Residential construction slowed slightly in first half of 2019


A house under construction in Peter’s Ridge in Pleasant Hill. The eastern Polk County community has issued 41 residential building permits through the first half of 2019, 10 more than it had during the same period in 2018. Photo by Duane Tinkey

Eight of 12 Des Moines-area cities issued fewer residential building permits in the first six months of 2019 compared with the same period a year ago, a Business Record review of building permit data shows.

Overall, the number of residential building permits issued during the January-June period between 2018 and 2019 dropped 22%, the review shows. Consequently, the value of the permits issued slipped to $314.4 million in 2019 from $357.1 million in 2018. 

“It was a tough winter,” said Dan Knoup, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines. “There was a 60-day window when not much was happening at all.”

In addition, fewer permits for apartments were issued in the first six months of 2019 compared with a year ago, the data shows.

Des Moines, for example, issued four building permits in the first half of 2018 for apartment buildings with a total of 247 units, city data shows. The total value of the permits was $34.1 million. So far in 2019, two permits have been issued for multifamily projects that are valued at $13.8 million. 

West Des Moines has also seen a drop in apartment construction. In the first six months of 2018, the city issued three permits for apartment buildings with a total of 252 units. The projects were valued at $31.7 million.

In the same period this year, two permits have been issued for buildings with a total of 72 units; the permits were valued at $7.8 million, West Des Moines data shows.

Part of the reason for the downturn in apartment construction is the length of time it takes to get projects up and running, Knoup said. Several projects have been under construction in the metro area in the past couple of years, and it takes a while to get new projects started, he said. 

“There may be a little softening of that market, but I wouldn’t say it’s overbuilt,” he said.

Waukee, where an abundance of new home construction has occurred in recent years, saw a 5% decline in residential building permits issued between January and June 2018 and the same period in 2019.

“Residential cooled off a bit, but part of that was because we didn’t have a lot of developed lots,” said Dan Dutcher, Waukee’s community and economic development director. However, the city has invested more money into trunk sewer lines that has opened up residential lots for development on the north and west sides of Waukee. 

Also, construction of a new elementary school on west side of Waukee and plans for a second high school north of Hickman Road and east of Tenth Street have will spark more new home construction, he said. 

Dutcher estimated that Waukee would issue about the same number of residential building permits in 2019 as it did in 2018.

The chart below shows homebuilding permit data for 12 Des Moines-area communities.

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