By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
The number of building permits being pulled in St. Clair County are slowly increasing, a trend builders and officials say is a promise of a better economy.
In 2014, St. Clair County had 106 building permits for new houses in comparison to the year before, which saw 75 permits.
Craig LaDuke has been involved in the construction business for more than two decades and says this will be a continuing trend, but at a slow pace.
As owner of LaDuke Construction, he said there are a high number of permits the further south a builder goes in Michigan.
Macomb and Oakland counties had 1,814 and 2,031, respectively, in building permits for new homes.
“We’ve done a lot of new construction for custom homes and we’re also doing some renovation projects as well,” LaDuke said. “I would say it’s about a 50/50 split for us. It’s economy driven. Things are starting to pick up.”
Building permits are required to make sure a building meets state and city safety codes. The permits are filed for not only new homes, but additions like garages, roof replacements, porches and decks.
LaDuke said it’s the appraised values that are hurting the market in St. Clair County.
“Appraisals are holding people back from what they want to do,” he said. “St. Clair County is slowly moving forward, but it’s not even close to what’s happening in Macomb and Oakland. Those other counties have larger populations and more jobs coming in.”
Janet Mocadlo, a planner in data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said St. Clair County has not seen as many new buildings as it did at the turn of the century.
However, it has been increasing the last few years.
“People are still cautious on building a new home,” Mocadlo said. “That’s why you see so many modifications to preexisting homes. We are expecting 2 to 3 percent increases in the entire (southeast) region. Just don’t expect the huge increase we had in the early 2000s.”
Charlie Streeter, owner of Accolade Construction in Port Huron, said he agrees with that sentiment.
The majority of his company’s work are smaller projects in Port Huron and Port Huron Township.
“I never really base my work on permits,” he said, “but we haven’t had any big jobs this year. A lot of our work comes from home renovations and modifications.”
Mocadlo said outside of Port Huron, St. Clair County is considered rural which serves as another factor for slow housing development.
Home owners that make modifications or build a new house still serve as a revenue generator for their respective communities, Mocadlo said.
“You get additional property taxes with more people coming in and building homes or adding on to their current one,” she said. “Any new construction is good for a community. Property values will be in line with how many permits and buildings are popping up.”
Kim Harmer, Port Huron’s planning director, said the city has received nearly the same amount of permits for the last three years.
The majority of those permits come from small renovations and regular maintenance on households.
In 2014, Port Huron had a total of 582 building permits, which included new homes, renovations and demolitions. Of those permit totals, 24 were for building demolitions.
In 2013 and 2012, the city had 576 and 578, respectively.
“A lot of that appears to be rehab work and not new construction,” she said. “This ranges from doing a roof tear off to porch repairs.”
Through the first couple of months of 2015 in St. Clair County, numbers have been low with only two new building permits through the month of March.
Liz Wright, Fort Gratiot’s building department clerk, said the month of May is when the township begins to receive its influx of permits from residents and contractors.
Wright said she hopes to see an increase in home renovations this summer.
“A lot more people are fixing up their homes now,” she said. “Residents will begin making more adjustments to their homes as the economy gets better and property values increase.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 19, 2015)