Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and Vacaville in Solano County are roughly an hour’s drive apart, but they’re worlds away in the pace of housing construction.
Santa Rosa, the county’s seat and its largest city, with an estimated 177,000 people, had issued building permits for 47 homes, all single-family, in the first half of this year, totaling nearly $12 million in construction value, according to CIRB, part of the California Homebuilding Foundation. Renovations fill out the rest of the $26.2 million in residential permit value for the period.
Issuance of building permits is one of the last governmental steps before home construction starts, coming after months to years of seeking green lights from local, state and federal agencies, depending on how much was already done to get such signoffs recently before the developer moves toward construction in earnest. That’s why building permits are a economic bellwether for construction industry activity.
Of about 2,200 homes in projects various stages of review, Santa Rosa had building-permit applications for 845 housing units at mid-year, with about half back in the developers hands to work out financing, environmental-impact mitigation and other issues, according to a city report. Of the other half, the city expected another 100 units to get under construction this year. Already, 70 homes were completed, and 80 more given the green light but are awaiting financing, labor, the right timing, the city said.
By comparison, Vacaville, Solano’s third-largest city at 98,000, edged out second-largest Fairfield for the most residential construction permit value in the county in the first half. Vacaville issued permits for 206 homes, including 167 single-family dwellings, with $49 million in value, while Fairfield issued 179, all single-family, totaling $47 million.
Out of 921 units ready to pull permits in Vacaville this year, about 400 are expected to be built, which is the pace of building in the city in recent years, according to Barton Brierley, director of the Community Development Department.
Santa Rosa had 251 homes under construction in June.
Among them is the 54-home Aria Place development off San Miguel Avenue in northwest Santa Rosa, Morgan Properties has 25 single-family homes in phases 4 and 5 of the project under construction or about to get underway, according to proprietor Dan Morgan, who has built more than 300 homes in Sonoma County since the first project there in 1993.
The first three phases of Aria Place sold out before completion, and the next homes are expected to be ready to delivered to market between October and March 2018. Five of the 12 homes in phase 4 of Aria Place, which are being framed now, are in contract for sale. They’re priced at $549,000-$649,000 for the 1,250- to 1,914-square-foot homes. Construction on phase 5 is about to start.
“The rains caused us to have a gap in production, so we don’t have anything to deliver right now,” Morgan said.
The project has been built in phases of nine to 13 homes each. That has been based as much on the flow of project financing as on demand, he said.
“We’ve got really good momentum now, and the bank is seeing that, and they’re happy about the performance, so they’ve cut loose a little more money,” Morgan said. “That, and demand has been so strong, why not build the phases to the market?”