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Building Bouncing Back

POLK COUNTY — The worksite at one of Boylan Construction’s homes on Greening Drive in Dallas was bustling with noise and activity Friday.    The last work day before Memorial Day weekend, workers were buzzing around the house to finish their tasks before the holiday.    Owner Eli Boylan’s schedule is just as hectic lately, with seven homes in Dallas in various stages of completion. The loud sounds of nail guns, drills and workers shouting to one another is music to his ears in the slow climb out of the recession.    “I think all this year we will have six or seven going,” Boylan said. “That’s steaming for us.”    In Boylan’s estimation, that’s a sign that the local housing market could officially be branded “recovered.”    “We are building four times the volume we were in 2009,” Boylan said. “We’ve been doing decent. This is the third good year.”    That appears to be the case in Dallas as a whole, with 20 single-family housing permits issued so far this year, added to last year’s 55. Community Development Director Jason Locke said that still pales in comparison to the boom years from 2004-06, when 150 permits were issued each year, but it’s a healthy amount. Photo by Jolene Guzman Construction crews work on a house on Greening Drive in Dallas on Friday. It is one of 20 permitted so far this year.    “Probably 50 to 70 (permits) a year is probably where you want to be,” he said.    Locke said Dallas has the capacity to keep building, with more developments possibly coming online this year. He said a large 170-acre development will begin a lengthy permitting process later this year.    Housing permits are up slightly in Monmouth and Independence, too, but Monmouth Building Official Larry Thornton said it’s still a long way off.    A “normal” year would be 30 to 40 single-family houses being built, Thornton said. Monmouth’s numbers haven’t come even close since the market started going down in 2008.    “One house one way or the other, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “Monmouth hasn’t really seen an increase.”    Independence has seen better results, with nine single-family permits issued so far this year and 204 apartments due to start construction in June.    “The recession put the brakes on (building) big time,” said Mike Danko, Independence community development director. “I’m sensing it returning to normal again, with subdivisions kicking back up again.”    He said with a pent-up demand for housing, developers have faith it will grow.    “We’re so close to Salem, and not too far from the interstate corridor,” Danko said. “It’s sort of like the whole engine is starting to move again.”    Another factor in growth is the construction mindset itself, Danko said. People building apartments are building them to higher specs, creating communities and more comfortable living spaces. Photo by Jolene Guzman Travis Branson of Out West Plumbing of Dallas installs part of the plumbing system in a home under construction on Jonathan Avenue in Dallas on Friday afternoon.    John Leadley, Western Oregon University economics professor, said one of the reasons people look for rentals is because the economy is still uncertain.    “If you’re not certain about your job, it’s not a good time to be buying a house,” he said.    Unemployment rates are down, but a lot of that is because people are dropping out of the labor force, Leadley said, which forces people to be more mobile.    “Renting makes a lot of sense if you think you’re going to be moving soon,” he added.    Dallas realtor Gordon English Jr. of Angor Realty said the local market seems to following that trend. He said rental vacancies are few and those that are available are rented quickly.    English said he had been out of the real estate business for two and half years until October and the rental environment had dramatically changed in that time.    “There wasn’t a big demand 2 ½ years ago,” he said. “Once we started back up, there was a market.”    Locke said he thinks the trend to multi-family housing projects will increase in future years.    “It really depends, what we may find that is the mix is a little different, with more multifamily,” he said, citing Dallas Retirement Village’s planned apartment complex as an example.    Boylan said the segment of the single-family housing market that has recovered the most are the homes in the “starter” price ranges.    “Higher-end homes still have a little recovery to do,” he said.    Boylan isn’t complaining, though. For the most part, no one is, as it feels like the housing train is finally back on the tracks – and perhaps picking up steam.    “You find that is true with the other jurisdictions.” Locke said. “There seems to be a steadiness … and we expect that to continue.”    

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