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New construction begins to climb

January 2, 2014
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

New home construction in Cape Coral is slowly but steadily on the rise, according to experts.

In fiscal year 2013, which ended Sept. 30, the city issued a total of 451 single-family home permits - 122 more permits than the year before. In 2011, 237 permits were issued, preceded by 223 in 2010.

"We have been on an upward trend for the last two and a half years," Paul Dickson, building official with the city, said Thursday. "It's a trend, not a spike - we're moving in the right direction."

While no new construction permits were issued in FY 2013 or 2012 for multi-family homes in the Cape, two permits were issued this past year for town houses, as compared to zero permits the year before. In both 2013 and 2012, six new construction permits were issued for duplexes in the Cape.

"The number on single-family are up," he said. "The number on permits overall are up."

Moe Beneke, executive director for the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, agreed.

"There's been an increase in permits pulled, and there's an increase in the amount of traffic that the builders are seeing," she said Tuesday.

Lee County issued 860 new construction permits in 2013 for single-family homes, as compared to 556 the year before. The numbers run January through December and only represent unincorporated Lee.

As for multi-family units, the county issued 352 permits in 2013 - 163 more than in 2012.

Lee County has seen a rise in single-family permitting year over year since 2011, while multi-family permits have been climbing since 2009, according to the Lee County Community Development.

In the Cape, single-family and multi-family permitting have both been on the rise since 2009.

Dickson pointed out that the city's current numbers are lower than in 2002 or 2003.

"Our annual numbers today - we were issuing them monthly," he said, referring to the years leading up to the real estate market peak. "We have a long way to go to get to where we were pre-boom."

Dickson predicted that it is a long way off before the city sees boom year numbers again.

In 2005, the Cape's high point, 7,694 new construction permits were issued for single-family homes.

"I would guess we're not going to see that anytime in the near future," he said.

Dickson added that the city's current growth, however, is healthy.

"We're moving in a positive direction," he said, noting that construction remains a large industry.

"I think it's good for the economy. I also think it's happening the right way," Dickson said.

Ten, 12 or 14 years ago, the pace of growth mirrored what is being seen today.

"We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves too soon," he said. "The growth is steady, the growth is reliable, but the growth isn't overwhelming. It is sustained growth - not boom and bust."

Beneke echoed that sentiment.

"It seems to be at a nice clip," she said. "It's not snowballing that fast."

Industry experts attributed the rise in permitting mainly to the public's perception of the economy.

"I think confidence in the economy in one of the biggest factors," Dickson said.

"The economy has stabled a little bit," he said. "People feel a little bit more confident in making decisions on long-term investments."

Beneke agreed.

"What hurt us was what hurt everybody else - the economy," she said. "I would venture to say the economy is the majority of why we're starting to see that improvement."

She pointed to the favorable weather and good value for one's dollar as other reasons.

"You can still have a beautiful home in a beautiful city," Beneke said.

"What has always drawn people to Cape Coral has always been here, but it is all starting to come around," she said.

Dickson added that baby boomers are retiring at an increasing pace.

"There's a shift on where people want to spend their retirement years," he said.

As for 2014, Beneke explained that industry professionals are "cautiously optimistic."

"We definitely believe strongly that we're going to see a steady increase (in new construction)," she said. "But, nobody wants to start jumping up and down too fast."

Dickson echoed that.

"Based on the feedback that I got from the industry and what I see, I'm anticipating similar growth through the next fiscal year," he said.



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