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New housing permits in Troy below national average

Messenger Intern

The nation has seen a surprising increase in housing starts this year, but Troy has experienced a decrease rather than an increase.

As of June, there have only been 15 new house permits in Troy, a vast difference from the 29 permits from last year.

According to Junior Register, the building official for the city, most of the new houses each year are built within the first six months of the year.

In 1999, 50 new houses were built in Troy.

"That was when the economy was still booming. During the 90s we experienced a high of 70 and a low of 36 permits. There was just a huge downhill fall in the economy really at the turn of the century.

"It just hasn’t turned around yet. We keep expecting it too, but it just doesn’t. The terrorist attack may have caused some people to hold a little tighter to their money. I know I have since then," Register said.

The city keeps a record of residential growth by requiring that every new house have a permit, which is either obtained by the homeowner or the contractor.

According to the F.W. Dodge monthly report, residential construction for the first three months of 2002 was 9 percent higher than a year earlier and non-building construction was 3 percent higher.

The report is composed of monthly reports that construction companies from across the nation submit.

Housing starts increased by 11.6 percent in May to an annual rate of 1.73 million, according to Commerce Department figures printed in USA Today.

"We’re going to see some effects from these housing starts if they increase or stay about the same. Even if [if the increase] is only on the national level, the effects will still be felt down here to some degree. That’s if it stays at this relatively high level," said Mack Holmes, an economic researcher at Troy State University.

Holmes based his reasoning on the fact that many houses are built from the timber that could come from around here.

"One of the things that’s true about the region around here is that it’s a real povertized area. Around 60 percent of the people here live at the poverty level or lower. It’s just a low-income area. That’s probably one reason the housing starts are lower.

Kirkland also said the general economic conditions and the unemployment rate could have be other factors involved with the drop in housing starts.

"People just don’t have the money like they do in, say, Montgomery. The employment rate is a big factor. If people don’t have jobs, they can’t build houses.

The unemployment rate for Pike County was 5.1 percent in April of this year, and, compared to the state and national level, the county is doing better.

In April, the state unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the national rate was 6 percent, according to Holmes.

"It was probably down below 5 percent during the 90s. We’ve had at least one plant closure and that was probably responsible for most of the increase," Holmes said.

With the expansion of Lockheed Martin and the building of the new Wal-Mart distribution center in Brundidge, Holmes said he is expecting to see some relief on the unemployment rate.