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Counties in Arizona & Texas Show Fastest Growth in Single-Family Building Permits

Dec. 17, 2020
The Sunbelt continues to reign supreme when it comes to single-family building activity.

Single-family housing has been a bright spot in the 2020 U.S. economy. When you peruse the data on the counties with the biggest surges in building permits, you find some perennial hot spots, as well as some new kids on the block. The four counties that topped 1,000 single-family building permits through Aug. 20 were in metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that regularly appear amongst the housing markets — Maricopa County, AZ (15,738 permits); Montgomery County, TX (5,528 permits); Collin County, TX (7,417 permits); and Harris County, TX (13,477 permits).

When measured by the biggest year-over-year (YOY) change in single-family permits, you find counties in some other all-start metros where housing sizzles in many years, like Charlotte, NC; Jacksonville, FL; and Tucson, AZ. But counties in some smaller metros not typically seen on lists of hot housing markets pop up, too, like Montgomery County, TN, in the Clarksville, TN-KY MSA with 2,097 permits and a YOY increase of 799 permits, and Lafayette Parish, LA in the Lafayette, LA MSA, with 1,466 permits and a 711-permit increase. Check out the chart at the bottom for the Top 50 counties, and click here to see  the rest of the U.S. counties with sizeable single-permit activity through August.

The most recent county permit data also highlights the markets or regions that account for some huge percentages of their states’ overall housing activity. For example, Maricopa County accounts for 61% of Arizona’s 2020 single-family permits through August, and counties along Colorado’s Front Range from Fort Collins south through Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo checked in with 57% of that state’s single-family permit activity.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Washington, DC, expects single-family housing to slow down a bit in 2021 from this year’s expected 971,000 permits and a +6.1% increase to a more leisurely +2.5% pace and an estimated 947,000 permits.

The association’s latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) recently ended a string of three successive months of record highs, as builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell four points to 86 points in December. Despite the decline, this is still the second-highest reading in the history of the series after last month’s mark of 90 permits.

“Builder confidence fell back from historic levels in December, as housing remains a bright spot for a recovering economy,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz, in the release. “The issues that have limited housing supply in recent years, including land and material availability and a persistent skilled labor shortage, will continue to place upward pressure on construction costs. As the economy improves with the deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine, interest rates will increase in 2021, further challenging housing affordability in the face of strong demand for single-family homes.”