New construction collapses - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New construction collapses

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - New home construction plunged to a record low in January across the country.

Here in south Georgia, new home construction in a community that was once one of the fastest growing in the nation has nearly ground to a halt. Applications for building permits are a good barometer for future activity, but lately the pressure has dropped to a record low, falling below economists expectations.

The familiar sound of new construction in Lee County has been silenced in January. The number of new building permits acquired for single homes was cut in half from 20 in January of 2008 to 12 last month.

"As far as spec homes being built there's not many of them being built. Most of our work right now is remodeling and pre sold homes," said Johnny White, Paul White & Sons Painting.

In Dougherty County it's worse.

"The numbers are not good," said Howard Brown, Dougherty Planning & Development Services Director.

January of 2008 saw 85 building permit applications for new single family homes, duplexes, and apartments. Last month the outlook was completely different, just 17 new building permits were issued, causing the county to freeze inspector positions.

"Everybody is hurting right now. We've had a freeze on our inspector positions because there's not enough work to keep a fully staffed inspections department," said Brown.

The industry is anxious for the President's 275 billion dollar plan that addresses the housing crisis. The administration has consulted Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson about what needs to be done.

"I think the initiatives they're going to do with Freddie and Fannie, which haven't been introduced yet, but they're ones I'm familiar with that they're talking about to make lower cost money available, 30 year fixed rate mortgages will help both those who are performing as well as those in difficulty," said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson.

Isakson has also pushed for a $15,000 tax credit to anyone who buys any home in the next year. The home building industry hopes this could turn the industry around and get them building again.

The Commerce Department says construction of new homes and apartments nationwide dropped 16.8 percent last month, well below what was expected to be a 50 year low.

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