Home-building permits filed in the Indianapolis area fell by more than 30 percent in January compared with the same month in 2010, mirroring a national trend showing weak demand for new single-family houses.
In the nine-county Indianapolis region, the number of building permits filed last month fell to 198, a decline of 31 percent from January 2010, according to the latest permit data from the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis.
Home-building activity was down in every area county last month except Johnson, where 25 building permits were filed, an increase of 25 percent from the same time last year.
Just 30 building permits were filed in Marion County, a decrease of 25 percent.
Home construction was strongest in Hamilton County, though the number of building permits fell by 20 percent, to 90.
Housing construction actually rose nationally last month at the fastest rate in 20 months because of a big spike in apartment building. But construction of single-family dwellings declined.
Builders broke ground on new homes and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 units, a 14.6-percent jump from December.
Single-family homes, which make up nearly 70 percent of new construction , fell 1 percent, to an annual rate of 417,000 units. Apartment construction skyrocketed 80 percent, to an annual rate of 171,000 units.
Building permits, an indicator of future construction, fell more than 10 percent nationally in January.
Last year, U.S. builders worked on 587,600 new homes, just barely better than the 554,000 started in 2009. In a healthy economy, builders start about 1 million units a year. The housing industry is coming off the worst two years for home construction dating back to 1959. Central Indiana home bulders also suffered through two tough years.
More than a year after the recession ended, the housing market is still struggling.
Millions of foreclosures have forced home prices down and more are expected this year. Tight credit has made mortgage loans tough to come by. And some potential buyers who could qualify for loans are hesitant to enter the market, worried that prices will fall further.
The flat-lined housing market is weighing on the overall economic recovery. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
The trade association reported Tuesday that its index of builder confidence remained stuck at 16 in February, where it has been for four straight months. A reading of 50 signifies a positive outlook about the future.