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Encinitas builders increasingly hammering away at new homes

Count on more hammering, sawing and nailing throughout Encinitas. New home construction and housing repairs are on the rise, harkening back to before the housing crash.

The city has issued permits for 138 new single-family homes so far this year, with 88 in 2013. Those figures are higher than recession lows of 35 in 2010 and 42 in 2009. In 2007, before the market collapsed, 107 permits were granted, according to a California Construction Review report from the California Homebuilding Foundation.

Encinitas architect Steve Shackleton said funding dried up for local housing projects that were on the drawing board when the real estate bubble popped, but they’re back in the picture now thanks to the improving housing market and economy.

“It’s not like starting over, but picking up where we left off,” Shackleton said. “That also relates to the structural engineers, the surveyors and different people who were also in the same boat a few years ago.”

He added: “There’s definitely more work out there.”

Shackleton noted that although land is scarce in Encinitas, he expects the trend to continue locally, barring a major economic downturn.

“Encinitas is pretty built out, so we’re not a high-development community where huge housing projects spring up,” he said. “In a lot of instances, there are older homes that are replaced with new ones. You’re seeing more of that.”

However, the city’s housing element could generate quite a few new homes. Due to appear on the 2016 ballot, it aims to add affordable housing stock throughout the city by identifying select sites for developments. To gain input, the city will hold workshops in the coming month and ask for feedback online (visit cityofencinitas.org for information).

Single-family houses represent about 80 percent of homes in Encinitas, according to 2012 U.S. census data. Construction on multifamily units in Encinitas remains low compared with other cities in San Diego County. In 2007, 20 multifamily permits were issued, with 23 in 2012, none in 2013 and two so far this year.

With high demand, the median home price is $829,000 in Encinitas, up from $703,000 during the same time two years ago, according to zillow.com.

Countywide, there’s also been an upswing in new housing permits, with 10,241 issued in 2006 and 6,786 in 2007. In 2012, 6,419 were granted and 8,447 in 2013, according to the San Diego Building Industry Association.

Although the upturn in the housing and construction industry means more local jobs and economic activity, the community hasn’t embraced all the recent housing projects. Residents have consistently protested “density bonus” developments, arguing they pack too many homes onto sites. And with six of these project applications on file with the city, the controversy isn’t likely to die down soon.

People are also doing more remodeling.

So far this year, 552 residential building permits, which include repairs, additions and new structures, have been issued. And 570 were awarded last year. Five years ago, that number was 312.

Mark Bobo, a local real estate agent, said longtime residents are fixing up their homes, since it’s difficult to relocate within Encinitas, given rising home prices.

“It is easy to sell your home, but then difficult to buy again in the same community for a price that is affordable,” Bobo said. “So that is the main reason to fix up what you already own.”

He added that out-of-town investors are increasingly buying real estate, also fueling the increase in home improvements.

“More and more investors are not comfortable with the volatility associated with stocks,” Bobo said, adding that after acquiring the properties, they make improvements to the homes to increase the value.

Next year, the council is due to re-examine residential and commercial building permit fees, which could affect local construction. To prepare for that council session, the city is embarking on a fee study.

“From time to time, jurisdictions undergo fee studies to ensure they are meeting cost recovery goals and to demonstrate that fees charged do not exceed the cost of providing services,” said senior planner Kerry Kusiak in an email.


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