California builders pulled permits to build 2,119 single-family housing units in August, the California Building Industry Association said — about the same number as in July, when builders blamed a sharp decline on the demise of a $10,000 state tax credit for new-home purchases.

Looking back a year, single-family housing permits were down 5.9 percent in August, CBIA said, citing statistics compiled by the Construction Industry Research Board (CIRB).

Permits issued to build multifamily housing were down 17 percent from July to August, to 792, CBIA said, up from a low for the year of 671 in May, but a 66.5 percent decline from a year ago.

Single-family permits remain up 68 percent from February’s lows, when builders took out 1,261 single-family permits. But all told, CIRB forecasts California builders will pull permits to build just 39,500 single-family and multifamily units in 2009, which would be the lowest total in records dating back to 1954.

In 2004, at the height of the boom, California builders started construction on 212,960 housing units, of which 151,417 were single-family homes.

Last month, CBIA blamed a 29 percent decline in permits pulled to build single-family homes from June to July on the discontinuation of the state’s $10,000 tax credit for new-home purchases (see story).

The California Franchise Tax Board stopped accepting requests for the credit on July 2, after taking 12,138 applications — more than it could fund with the $100 million allocated by lawmakers. By the end of August, the board had allocated all $100 million in credits to 10,659 homebuyers, or an average of $9,382 each. …CONTINUED

In a statement, CBIA President and CEO Liz Snow said the aggregate 5.2 percent drop in single-family and multifamily housing permits from July to August showed the impacts of closing out the tax credit program "continued into August, holding down new-home starts" and job creation.

While single-family housing permits may have been flat from July to August, they were still down from June’s year-high total of 2,890, when the tax credit program was still in effect, CBIA spokesman Mike Castillo told Inman News.

"The tax credit program helped boost sales, and in turn, housing starts, but now that the program has been discontinued, we saw a decrease in July, and total starts continued to decrease in August," Castillo said.

Nationwide, single-family housing production declined 3 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted rate of 479,000 units a year, ending five months of consecutive growth, the Census Bureau said last week.

A nationwide survey of homebuilders by John Burns Real Estate Consulting revealed concerns among builders about the potential Nov. 30 expiration of the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, along with competition from foreclosures, problems with appraisals, and lack of job creation (see story).

Builders have slowed construction of single-family homes because the window for completing them in time for purchasers to take advantage of the first-time homebuyer tax credit has closed, the National Association of Home Builders said in a statement calling on Congress to extend the credit.


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