GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Even with five years in a row of hopeful numbers, Clay County housing has yet to hit the marks of the go-go growth spurt of the 1990s, when more than 1,000-plus homes were …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Even with five years in a row of hopeful numbers, Clay County housing has yet to hit the marks of the go-go growth spurt of the 1990s, when more than 1,000-plus homes were being built annually. And it may take another decade to reach the phenomenal numbers recorded in the 2004-05 fiscal year – which is how the Clay County Building Department tracks housing permits – when 3,481 housing permits were issued that year. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the county issued 945 permits for single-family homes.
While the county’s numbers haven’t been as high as they’ve been before, Clay County Building Division Director David Conner assures that the county building department has been very busy, with a steady increase in projects.
“We haven’t really slowed down and we are definitely busier than we were last year,” said Conner. “We had 29 commercial projects come in for development review and 17 residential.”
Chief of Zoning Chad Williams said those 17 residential projects range from 20-lot subdivisions to 200-lot subdivisions. As the number of residential projects rises, so too does the number of commercial projects, as businesses must be built to meet the demand of the county’s new residents.
The majority of these residential projects are single-family rather than multi-family such as apartment buildings. Williams said this is because the current banking climate and its low-interest rates are making home ownership more possible than ever. He said single-family homes come are affordable to own, especially when compared to the high cost of leasing a home or renting an apartment.
With more projects and permits being pulled, the county also seen a rise in revenue, and that’s because commercial projects bring in more revenue, according to Conner.
The revenue brought in by the department, which is determined by permit fees collected, is higher than it’s ever been since the housing bubble burst which began in 2006, but didn’t really hit hard until around 2008. In the 2005-06 fiscal year, one year before the housing market crashed, revenue was $4,811,827.82. The next year, that number began its decline, reaching $3,388,733.36 in the 2006-07 fiscal year. By the 2008-09 fiscal year, that number was half as large at $1,736,226.51.
This past fiscal year was one of the county’s best in the past 10 years, with $2,918,385.42 collected in permit fees and 945 housing permits issued.
Looking forward into the 2017-18 fiscal year, Conner expects a continuation in the county’s rising numbers, both in revenue and in permits pulled.
“I think you can expect the number of residential projects occurring to continue to rise and because of their rise, you can expect the number of commercial projects to rise in order to meet those demands,” said Conner.
Officials in the home building industry agree with Williams and Conner – 2018 promises to be another year of steady housing growth.
“A more steady level of growth is more manageable – 2005 rates are harder to maintain and there were things pushing that growth that just wasn’t maintainable. Now, there’s things put in place that hopefully prevents that kind of unmanageable maintenance,” said Jessie Spradley,
government affairs director for the Northeast Florida Builders Association and the Clay Builders Council.
NEFBA Executive Officer Bill Garrison agrees with Spradley’s characterization of a steady 2018.
Garrison said, “2017 was a very healthy, robust year and we’re recovering strongly from the recession.”
Economic and Development Services Director Chereese Stewart attributes this growth to the quality of life in Clay County.
“People want to live here,” Stewart said. “Clay County has always been a place that people want to come to and I think that’s because of our quality of life, our education and our county’s commitment to public safety.”
As the department prepares to head into the new year, they hope that residents know that Clay County is always looking to make the area a better place to live.
“It’s important that residents know we are here to serve them,” said Stewart. “We are constantly striving to make that process more convenient and as simplistic as it can be, despite not being the most simplistic process.”
Stewart noted that anyone can walk through the doors of the department and speak to whomever they might wish to speak with, something she said might not be available to residents in other areas.
“At the end of the day, we are here to help and we will always try to be personable and we will always try to be approachable,” said Stewart.