Home permits dip commercial projects dive

September 09, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

Building permits for new homes in metropolitan Baltimore fell slightly in July, as commercial building continues to run way behind the depressed levels of 1993, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council reported yesterday.

The council blamed higher interest rates for a 3.1 percent dip in permits for single-family homes compared to July 1993. Permits for condominiums and apartments fell 14.3 percent.

The biggest drops in the more significant single-family figure came in Baltimore City (51 percent) and Baltimore (19 percent) and Carroll (27 percent) counties. Anne Arundel County, which has seen a residential boom in the Odenton area since lifting a building moratorium, saw permits fall almost 8 percent but continued to issue more permits for its size than any other local jurisdiction.

Howard and Harford counties saw gains of 11 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

"It means that things are on hold in terms of growth," said Michael A. Conte, director of the University of Baltimore's regional economic studies program. He said the decline "is to be expected; it's entirely consistent with the decline in sales. I don't think it's worrisome."

The council said developers took out permits for only $12.7 million of new nonresidential construction in July, down 53 percent from July 1993. The year-to-date value of commercial projects approved in the area is down 65.5 percent, the council said.

The biggest reason for the decline from already weak figures for 1993 is the near-absence of two major projects that pumped up last year's numbers. Permits for the $123 million U.S. Health Care Financing Administration headquarters in Woodlawn and the Homer Gudelsky Building at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore accounted for nearly half of last year's new construction in the region.

"There was not one single-office project permitted in July -- small, large, anything -- which is also a depressing thought," Mr. Conte said. "We're still going south in nonresidential activity except for warehousing. . . ."

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