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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Housing starts hit 20-year low

Friday, January 27, 2012

Monett saw the smallest amount of housing construction in 21 years during 2011. Only the $9.3 million Monett Area YMCA project boosted the value of building permits issued during the year to over $11 million, keeping the overall total from hitting a three-year low.

According to Building Inspector Wade Ennes, only four permits for new homes were issued in 2011. The number of houses was the lowest since the building inspector's office started issuing permits in 1990. Two were built by the construction technology class at the Southwest Area Career Center. Keith McCracken and Tyler Richards were the other contractors.

The four new houses had an estimated total value of $387,000 or an average value of $96,750. The largest house was 2,400 square feet and valued at $150,000. The others were 1,400 square feet or less.

Permits for a duplex valued at $140,000, a tri-plex valued at $230,000 and a four-plex valued at $250,000 boosted new construction to a little over $1 million. Two were built by Kevin Burnside and Don Isbell. The third was built by contractor Cliff Matthews.

"Duplexes seem to be popular to build, if a contractor can find a place to do it," Ennes said. "I feel there is still a need. The builders have no trouble getting someone in there. People are willing to pay to have a nice place to rent. You've got to find a place that has multi-family zoning."

Throughout the last two years, remodeling of existing homes has topped new construction. The trend boosted permits for residential work by another $552,900 for improvements, additions and remodels plus $265,935 in permits for roof coverings and replacements.

"The main thing that's got things stalled is most lending facilities are requiring 20 percent down to buy a house, though some 100 percent financing is available," Ennes said. "It's hard to get that much money to jump in, and that's making things slower. Nationwide, there's a little upswing in housing sales. I haven't noticed it here. There are houses built last year that are still on the market."

Fourteen permits were issued for new commercial buildings, improvements, additions, remodels and signs in 2011, one less than in 2010. The size of the projects were much smaller. Only three were valued at $100,000 or more, compared to six in 2010.

The average annual value of new commercial and industrial construction over the last 21 years had been around $5 million. The $9.7 million in 2011 topped the average. Since the economic downtown took hold in early 2009, Monett has seen an average annual commercial and industrial construction of $9.4 million.

"In recent years, we've had some big projects that were replacements: the McDonald's and the Pizza Hut," Ennes said. "International Dehydrated Foods went through another phase of replacement and renovation. That was a long-term plan, and they didn't seem to be affected by the economy. The public schools passed a bond issue to build at Monett Elementary. The Monett Community Church finished its new building. The YMCA has gone through a lot to raise funds for its new building.

The other big projects in 2011 were: the $140,000 remodel of the Gas and Groceries building into a Little Caesars restaurant; a $100,000 construction on the Show Me Twice the Ice building; $62,000 on the roof canopy for Central Park Elementary School; and $50,228 for the building at Field of Dreams golf driving range.

The nine other projects were valued at $15,000 or less. Two were signs for Monett Elementary School and State Farm Insurance. Additions were built onto Dos Amigos auto sales and Peking Restaurant. A vehicle maintenance building was added at Jimmy's Pre-Owned auto sales.

Ennes said the only calls he has received of late have been from local contractors, though he has heard speculation about plans to build another strip mall.

Considerable opportunity still exists in Monett for building new homes. Ennes said there are open lots in Bill Mitchell's Woodland Hills subdivision in the northeast corner of town and in Duane Eoff's Southwind Village at the south end of town off Moge Road.

The biggest potential for new homes is on several blocks of completed streets in the third phase of the Ridgemont Meadows subdivision, north of Nellie. Ennes said the engineer who designed the subdivision had the grounds elevated to pull it out of the 100-year flood plane. However, the engineer withdrew from the project before filing the paperwork needed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Without FEMA authorization to build new homes on the western portion of the subdivision, the plat for phase three of Ridgemont Meadows has never been filed with the city. Without subdivision approval, no homes have been built there, even though the streets are finished and over 80 percent of the utilities are in place, Ennes said.

The subdivision has subsequently been sold to another contractor. Ennes said the new owner plans to file the needed paperwork with FEMA but plans to sell lots rather than build homes.

"I can't commit that we'll see progress [in more construction] yet," Ennes said. "It's not a real rosy picture. We didn't see the slowdown as fast as other parts of the county. I think we'll be a bit slower building up again."

Ennes said efforts to get property owners to bring their buildings up to code have paid off. In the past year and a half, close to 75 properties have been brought up to code, thanks to efforts by Assistant Building Inspector Jeff Brattin. At present, Brattin is working on bringing another 32 properties into compliance.

The big change coming to the building inspector's office in 2012 will be a move to 508 Bond into offices the city purchased from Kevin Sprenkle. Ennes anticipates the move will be finished by the end of March.

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