If current trends hold, California home builders will break the 200,000-unit barrier this year for the first time since 1989, the California Building Industry Association announced Tuesday.

According to figures compiled by the Construction Industry Research Board in Burbank, builders began work on 14,292 homes and apartments in January, up 0.7 percent from January 2003 but down 10.7 percent from December 2003. However, on a seasonally adjusted basis, total housing production climbed 2.4 percent from December and 4.9 percent from January 2003.

For single-family homes, housing starts totaled 11,135 in January, down 3.3 percent from December and down 3.4 percent from January 2003. Seasonally adjusted, however, production rose by 13 percent from December and up 1.2 percent from January 2003.

And given that the demand for homes remains at high levels while supply remains extremely low, CIRB now projects that production will reach 202,000 this year – still well below the 230,000 to 250,000 homes and apartments needed to keep up with California’s ever-growing population, according to CBIA President Sherman D. Harmer Jr.

Harmer said CBIA is promoting legislation to make more land available for housing production. One part of the package would require localities to ensure an adequate land supply for housing for up to 20 years, while another bill would require developers of co-called brownfields – former industrial areas that in many cases are close to employment centers – to clean up newly acquired properties to make them habitable and safe, but not require builders to be responsible for unforeseen problems that the original polluters created. The bill would generally conform state law to a new federal law that has sparked brownfield development in many less-litigious states.

The California Building Industry Association is a statewide trade association representing more than 6,000 businesses. The Construction Industry Research Board is a nonprofit research center established in 1974 to provide statistical information on the California building and construction industry.

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