Columbia Construction Industry Stokes Supply

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia construction industry is churning out supply at pre-recession levels to meet increased residential and commercial demand.

KOMU 8 News reviewed city construction permit activity Monday and the city is seeing growth across the industry, both in new construction and in renovations or additions to existing property. 

The city has issued as many total permits for residential and commercial construction in a 9-month period this year as it did total in four out of the five preceding years. The department is on pace to issue more permits in 2013 than it did in 2012. 

The Columbia Department of Community Development issued nearly 1,500 building permits from Jan. 1 - Sept. 30. The department is also on pace to issue the most permits since 2007, when it issued nearly 2,000 total residential and commercial permits. In 2006, the department issued more than 4,000 permits. 

Jeff Hemme owns Hemme Construction in Columbia and is building a plot of homes at the end of a street in a south Columbia subdivision.

Hemme said during the recession, realtors had to focus on selling existing inventory and the industry saw less demand for new construction as a result.

"When the economy turned down over the last few years people couldn't buy homes," Hemme said. "Now banks are loosening up to buyers and buyers are starting to buy homes."

Hemme said the industry is making the new inventory available in the market at just the right time. 

"Developers haven't been able to develop a lot of inventory, selling off the old inventory and the new inventory is just starting to get built, so actually there's kind of a shortage," Hemme said. 

Shane Creech is the Building and Site Development Manager for the city and said the city is seeing a large growth in construction permit activity mainly because developers continue to build large student housing complexes. The department has issued 9 permits this year to build 307 units of residential property classified by the city as a multi-family property with five or more units. 

Creech said he is looking to hire an additional building inspector to deal with the bustle in activity. 

"When permits are up it basically adds work for all my staff including my folks who do planning review and my site inspectors who do erosion control and all that," Creech said. "We have seen quite a bit of uptick in the past year."

The city is also issuing more permits for single-family housing. Creech said during the recession, developers had to leave lots in subdivisions open because there was not enough demand to finish them. 

Creech said many builders are putting new homes in pockets of existing subdivisions that are not fully developed. 

Hemme said he was able to stay in business in the thick of the recession and since 2009, his business has doubled it's output each year. He expects 2013 to be his best year yet. 

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