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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 14, 200212:00 PM EST

Record year for permits

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Duval County issued 4,935 single-family building permits in 2001, setting a record and leading the way in a record-breaking year for a four-county area according to the Northeast Florida Builders Association and building department records from Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties and the Census Bureau.

“The permit numbers coincide with an increase in the consumer confidence index,” said Stephen Edmonds, president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. “Very favorable interest rates, as well as our weather and the industry’s efforts to keep housing affordable in Northeast Florida, all contribute to these record numbers.”

The old Duval County mark of 3,847 was set in 1998.

The four county-area of Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns counties combined to issue 9,603 single-family permits over 12 months last year, besting the old record of 7,935 set in 2000.

“All the counties we survey recorded a very strong year,” said Edmonds. “The value of a new home is underlined by the rising permits for new residential construction in Northeast Florida.”

A strong December helped break the record.

In Duval County, 315 permits were issued in December, compared to 205 in the same month a year earlier. The other three counties also showed an increase when comparing December 2001-to-December 2000. St. Johns recorded 140 (+16), Clay 133 (+34) and Nassau 96 (+76).

Indicating the remarkable resilience of the nation’s housing market in a year marked by terrorist attacks and recession, U.S. housing starts rose 2.2 percent in 2001 to a healthy 1.6 million units, according to figures released by the Commerce Department. Year-end figures showed a 3.4 percent decline nationally in starts for the month of December due entirely to a shortfall in multifamily production.

“Nationally, housing clearly showed surprising strength amid some tough economic times in 2001,” said Edmonds.

Crediting favorable financing conditions, improving consumer confidence and solid demographics as major factors sustaining demand for new homes and apartments at the end of 2001. Edmonds added that these good market fundamentals should signal continuing improvement in the new year.

“National forecasts indicate that housing will again be a positive contributor to economic growth by 2002’s second quarter,” he said.

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