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Despite Positive Economic Gains, Building Permits Are Lagging Behind

The recession is long gone, and the economy is making a comeback. But, one economic indicator is lagging behind.

Building permits spiked during the go-go years of the early 2000s, peaking in 2004. Then the bottom fell out and new building permits in Virginia were slashed in half. They’ve recovered a bit, but the numbers have been flat since 2013.

Andrew Clark at the Home Builders Association of Virginia says the housing industry never really recovered from the global financial crisis.

“When a lot of folks see the monthly reports on permits and housing starts and sometimes in some months it’s generally positive, they think OK well the industry is coming back and we must really be hitting the peak on housing production, but that’s not the case.”

Credit U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Terry Clower at George Mason University says it’s a story that’s unfolding in different ways in different parts of Virginia.

“In our areas that are growing in population, like Northern Virginia and Richmond, we’re not seeing that building permits are keeping up with the demand for new housing. So the problem that we have about housing shortages and housing affordability continue to be a problem and will be a problem for some period of time.”

He also says that some local governments have been reluctant to issue new permits because they can’t afford the police protection and new schools that would be needed once people move in.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.