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Upstate region still above national home construction average

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Home building in the Upstate is back to levels not seen since before the recession.

According to Granger MacDonald, incoming chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, the Greenville area has seen 3,942 single family construction starts in 2016 along with 1,282 multi-family construction starts.

“This area is really out-producing the rest of the country,” MacDonald said.

The new starts have come with another positive, MacDonald said. The new home construction has added more than 2,700 new jobs to the market.

“Those are jobs that work right here in Greenville,” he said. “It isn’t like having a product built in China and shipped here. The jobs start here and stay here.”

While the Upstate continues to produce new homes at pre-recession levels, there are other areas of the country that have yet to hit that mark. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the South has out-paced other regions in terms of new home construction over the last year.

The data, as of September, said the South had 594,000 new home construction starts – a 5.7% increase over the same period a year ago. The West had the next-highest number of construction starts with an estimated 316,000.

“There are a lot of good things going for this area,” MacDonald said. “It’s a nice place to live and there is a robust economy with several major employers.”

According to the census data, at the end of September there were 67,000 new home construction starts in the South that had been permitted, but not started as of the end of the month.

But, while the South remains attractive for new residents, in the Upstate there is a concern surrounding outgrowing the area. Michael Dey, CEO of The Home Builders Association of Greenville, said there was an additional concern with home building in the Upstate.

“I think the bigger problem is not physical location, but the political will to allow it to happen,” Dey said.

The number of single family home permits in the Greenville city limits has grown from 62 in 2011 to 206 in 2015, according to city data. The total value of those permits increased from $11.8 million to $71.6 million over the same time. Multi-family home permits have also jumped from 35 in 2011 to 49 in 2015 with the value of those permits also increasing from $16 million to $71.5 million.

In Greenville County, the number of new home building permits issued saw growth from 2010 to 2013, but a drop in 2014. After reaching a peak of 1,780 permits issued in 2013, the number of new home permits issued by the county fell to 1,531 in 2014. The value of the fees collected from those residential permits dropped from a high of $764,716 in 2013 to $718,230 in 2014.

The number of new home permits rose slightly in 2015 to 1,601, but are at 1,422 in 2016 through September.

“It’s just hard to develop a subdivision in Greenville County because of the difficulty in getting areas zoned,” Dey said.

MacDonald added there was a trend across the country called ‘not by backyard.’ It is a situation where residents in an area fight against rezoning measures that would allow for a new subdivision to be built in their area. Dey said that attitude is not a new one in the South.

“We saw this in Atlanta where they had a moratorium on building permits and the building moved to Gwinnett County because people didn’t want new building in DeKalb County,” Dey said.

In just five years, the population of Gwinnett County has jumped to nearly 900,000. In comparison, the population in DeKalb County has only increased 6.2% to just over 734,000 in the same time.

Overall, MacDonald said the region still holds strong advantages over other areas of the nation when it comes to where people consider moving to. Cost to build remains lower in the Upstate as MacDonald said the average was $204,000. While that is an increase from just five years ago, he said it is still below the national average of $260,000.

“It all really comes down to quality of life and people want to live where they have the best quality of life,” MacDonald said.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107.

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