The number of residential building permits issued in California in September dropped to the lowest level for that month since 1996, the Construction Industry Research Board reported, and fell 46.6 percent compared to September 2005.

The number of single-family building permits issued in the state dropped 56.7 percent in September compared to September 2005 and was down 15 percent compared to August. For the first nine months of the year, the number of single-family building permits issued has dropped 28.7 percent compared to the first nine months of 2005.

Meanwhile, the number of multifamily permits issued in the state fell 21.2 percent in September compared to September 2005, dropped 9.7 percent compared to August, and rose 4.1 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the first nine months of 2005.

There were 11,590 total single-family and multifamily building permits issued in September, down 12.9 percent compared to August and down 20.5 percent for the first nine months of 2006 compared to the first nine months of 2005.

Alan Nevin, chief economist for the California Building Industry Association trade group, said in a statement that new-home construction in the state is expected to continue cooling off for the remainder of 2006.

“Permit activity through September indicates that California will achieve our forecasted level of 180,000 units permitted in 2006,” Nevin said.

“As expected, the single-family sector remains challenged as home builders work toward reducing their year-end inventory. Almost half of the decline in single-family units permitted was in the Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento and San Diego areas. “Most of the balance of the state has seen significantly fewer declines. In other words, the other 55 counties in California evidenced a decline of single-family permits averaging 20 percent,” Nevin added.

He also said that multifamily construction starts are expected to total between 45,000 to 55,000 units this year, which is roughly even with last year’s levels, while single-family starts are expected to reach a level of 125,000 to 135,000, down from 155,000 last year.

Wes Keusder, 2007 CBIA chairman and a Southern California home builder, said in a statement, “We have definitely been experiencing a cooling off this year. Last year we had a waiting list of buyers interested in our homes before they were even built. This year, however, it seems as though we’re the ones who are waiting.”

The California Building Industry Association is a statewide trade association representing about 6,700 businesses, including home builders, remodelers, subcontractors, architects, engineers, designers, and other industry professionals.

The Construction Industry Research Board (CIRB) is a nonprofit research center established in 1974 to provide statistical information on the California building and construction industry. More information is available on the CIRB Web site, www.cirbdata.com.

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