County Building Permits Fall Off Pace

BERLIN – The Worcester County housing market has taken a hit in the last two years, all indicators confirm, but the downward trend in building permit numbers in Worcester County tells a dramatic tale.

Building permits in Worcester County, outside the towns, are down 66 percent in the last three years. In 2005, the county issued 511 building permits for 532 units, followed by a sharp decline in 2006, when 334 permits were issued for 423 units. In 2007, the county permitting department issued only 194 permits for 240 units, a decline of 66 percent since 2005.

While new Worcester County single-family homes have dropped steadily, from 446 permits to 277 permits to 137 permits in three years, multi-family projects have seen more variation. The number of units went up from 2005 to 2006 then dropped in 2007. The number of projects increased from six to 16 in 2006, but dropped slightly, to 14 projects, in 2007. Manufactured homes in the county have dropped steadily, from 28, to 15, to only four last year. Mobile homes in the county have stayed roughly the same, with 31 permitted in 2005, 26 in 2006, and 29 in 2007.

The picture in Worcester County’s municipalities also varies.

In Berlin, the number of building permits issued has gone down since last year, with 303 issued in 2006, and only 256 issued in 2007, but permit numbers are up from 2005, going from 188, an increase of 68 permits overall.

Snow Hill’s numbers have varied little in three years, although that will change drastically when the Summerfield project begins to build homes. In 2005, the small town issued only six building permits, with 10 in 2006, and nine in 2007, an increase of three permits since 2005.

Pocomoke City has seen a steady decline in building permits issued, although that may change with more industry coming to the town and to the south in Virginia, particularly the Wallops Island area.

In 2005, Pocomoke City issued 130 residential building permits, followed by a drop to 105 permits in 2006, and another drop to only 69 permits in 2007, a 53-percent drop over three years.

Ocean City’s 2007 numbers were not available this week, but the resort did post a slight increase in building permits between 2005 and 2006, from 1,416 permits to 1,475, an increase of 59 permits, or 4 percent.

Excluding Ocean City, Worcester County and the towns issued permits for 540 units of housing in 2007, down from 2006’s 752 units, and 2005’s 856 units, a 37-percent decline over three years.