Photo by Matt Stensland
Construction sites like this one at The Porches are not as prevalent as they were a couple years ago. Recent staff layoffs at the Routt County Regional Building Department are another indication of a slow building season.
By the numbers
Building permits issued in Routt County from January through June
Year Single-family permits Valuation
2010 15 $11.2 million
2009 30 $21.2 million
2008 47 $32.4 million
2007 88 $41.9 million
2006 83 $35 million
2005 100 $42.8 million
2004 78 $36.3 million
2003 96 $32.6 million
2002 81 $26.5 million
2001 92 $30 million
The Building Department provides permitting and inspection services for the city of Steamboat Springs, the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa, and all of unincorporated Routt County. The town of Hayden contracts out its building department services to a private company.
Steamboat Springs Data compiled by the Routt County Regional Building Department for the first half of 2010 underscores the magnitude of the quiet construction season in Steamboat Springs and Routt County. A drop in the number and valuation of building permits in the county continues as more homeowners choose to remodel their homes and builders adapt to the slower climate.
Only four single-family home permits have been issued in Steamboat Springs through June, and the number of home inspections so far this year in the city is at its lowest level since 1993. Valuation for building projects permitted in Steamboat Springs — including alterations and additions to existing buildings — was estimated to be $14.3 million for the first six months of 2010, compared with $25.3 million during the first six months of 2009.
“Things are very, very quiet right now,” said Scott Ford, director of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative. “It’s going to stay that way for a while.”
Ford worked with Yampa Valley Partners to develop a forecasting system that attempts to predict the probability of future construction projects. The system looks at the correlation between the number of single-family homes on the market sold per month and the pickup of building activity.
“Once you begin to sell between 2 and 2.5 percent of your existing inventory on the market on a monthly basis for over 12 months, then you begin to see a pickup in building activity,” he said. “We are currently hovering below 1 percent per month.”
Ford said he sees nothing in the forecasting system that indicates Routt County will see significant building activity in the next 12 months.
Recent staff layoffs at the Routt County Regional Building Department are another indication of a slow building season.
“We’re not as busy as we have been,” said Carl Dunham, head of the Routt County Regional Building Department. “We had 14 people working in the department last year, and now we’re at six.”
Dunham said builders and contractors are continuing to adapt to the new construction landscape.
“Some of the builders are doing all right, but it isn’t like it used to be,” he said. “Some of them say they haven’t seen it this bad, and other guys are
busy. A lot of it is reputation and return customers looking for opportunities, and that’s about it. Not a whole bunch is going on out there.”
Fifteen single-family home permits have been issued so far this year in all of Routt County, compared with the average of 77 single-family home permits issued countywide for the first six months of the year from 2001 to 2009. The shrinking number of permits and the slowing industry are forcing some builders to change their strategy.
“We are bidding every project that we possibly can, and we’re doing a lot of small projects for past clients that have lived in their homes for 10 years now and want to expand their deck,” said Sarah Fox, a project manager for Fox Construction in Steamboat.
Fox predicts that 2010 will be the worst year yet for construction in the Yampa Valley but is hopeful that 2011 will see a boost in projects.
“The architects are really busy this year, which is a good indicator that 2011 should see an increase in construction projects,” she said. “Last year, architect activity was dead and some went out of business, and that was a big indicator of what this year would bring.”