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A boom in S.L.-area apartments

The Salt Lake City metro area closed out 1997 with a huge fourth-quarter surge in apartment construction that more than offset a tiny drop in new single-family building permits.

According to U.S. Housing markets' February report, the 1,137 multifamily units that came on line in Salt Lake during the last three months of the year was a whopping 225 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 1996.But the 1,828 permits for single-family residences represented a 1 percent decline for the period compared to a year earlier.

Overall, total housing permits issued in Salt Lake during the quarter increased 35 percent to 2,965.

For all of 1997, residential construction in Salt Lake declined across the board. Single-family homes declined 13 percent to 7,909 for the year while apartment units were down 26 percent to 2,720. Overall, 10,629 housing permits were issued for the year, a decline of 17 percent from 1996.

Those figures placed Salt Lake in 26th place among the nation's 50 hottest markets for single-family home building in 1997; in 34th place for multifamily permits and 30th place overall.

By comparison with its 20-market peer group in eight Western states, Salt Lake's 13 percent decline in single-family housing compared with a 4 percent increase for those 20 cities; the 26 percent decline in multifamily compared with a 6 percent increase, and the local 17 percent decline in total permits in 1997 compared to a 5 percent increase among those 20 Western metro areas.

Statewide, Utah had a 2 percent decline in single-family home construction in the fourth quarter to 3,291 units and a 13 percent decline for the year at 14,474.

In multifamily, Utah had a 25 percent fourth-quarter increase to 1,722 but a 34 percent decline for the year to 4,494 units.

For total residential building permits issued in the fourth quarter, the state had a 6 percent gain to 5,013 but a 19 percent decrease overall to 18,968 for the full year.

Nationally, homebuilders had their busiest fourth quarter in 11 years as more than 340,000 building permits were issued in the last three months of 1997, the most since the final quarter of 1986.

The report cites affordable mortgage rates, strong employment numbers and confident consumers for the strong housing markets nationwide.

For the seventh consecutive year, Atlanta led the nation in housing construction with a 3 percent increase to 49,504 permits. Dallas/Ft. Worth was second and Phoenix/Mesa was third. Las Vegas came in sixth despite a 5 percent decline in residential construction from 1996.

Michigan-based housing research firm U.S. Housing Markets tracks residential construction trends for the construction and design industries and issues monthly reports.