Flicker Of Life Showing Up In Payson Building Permit Figures

After a disastrous year, town officials take heart from a handful of projects approved in July

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So the patient is lying in his hospital bed in a coma. Hasn’t stirred in months.

Suddenly, he gasps — but doesn’t open his eyes.

Are we encouraged?

In July, builders took out permits to build four houses in Payson, plus two commercial projects. The projects have a value of $3.7 million and the builders paid $22,000 in permit fees.

A good sign?

Well, that’s four times as many houses as in June — and twice as many commercial permits, according to figures compiled by the Payson Building Department.

Moreover, that’s roughly twice the monthly average for the last two years. During the past two fiscal years, Payson has issued permits for an average of two new houses each month.

Mind you, back during the boom, builders added an average of 250 new homes to Payson’s housing stock annually. Payson was growing so fast at one point that town officials feared it would outstrip its water supply and imposed a 250-unit-per-year limit on new construction — a figure that now seems like an impossible dream.

So July doubled the two-year average. Might not mean anything, but at least things are moving in a better direction locally than they are nationally.

Nationwide, construction spending hit a 10-year low in July — $805 billion, according to figures released last week by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The association concluded that cuts by state and local governments on infrastructure spending drove the figures down.

“While the (federal) stimulus is funding some vital infrastructure projects, the private sector is too cautious and state and local governments are too cash-strapped to help,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Statewide, employment in the construction sector has declined by 11 percent in the past year. Many rural areas have done much worse than the Valley, with its 9 percent decline. Flagstaff suffered a disastrous 32 percent drop in construction employment and Kingman a 14 percent drop. Prescott did better, with a 9 percent decline and Yuma declined just 7 percent.

Nationwide in July, construction provided 5.6 million jobs, a decrease of 2.2 million from the July 2009 peak.

In Payson, the faint flicker of life in the housing sector came after three months in which the town issued no permits for single-family houses at all.

June broke the construction drought, with permits issued for one house and one commercial project. Those permits had a construction value of $1.1 million and builders paid $13,000 in permit fees. That included $524,000 for the one house and $495,000 for the commercial project. The construction value for the full fiscal year amounted to about $11.4 million.

That amounted to just half the $22 million in new construction approved in fiscal 2009, which was itself an awful year compared to Payson’s recent history.

In fiscal 2009, the town issued permits for 28 single-family homes, 18 manufactured homes, 66 apartment or condo units and three commercial projects.

In fiscal 2010, the town issued permits for 28 single-family homes, seven manufactured homes and two commercial projects.

Town officials said preliminary figures for August show several more permits for new homes and several commercial projects. Moreover, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans noted that 17 commercial developers have projects in the pipeline.

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