After several years marked by the crash of the housing market nationwide, preliminary figures from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) show that people are slowly but surely looking toward southeast Michigan, Oakland County and parts of the lakes area to build new homes.
The organization that represents seven counties in the metropolitan Detroit region is reporting an 82 percent gain in new housing units in 2010 with 2,902 residential building permits issued in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
Oakland County saw a 102 percent bump in issued residential building permits, from 420 in 2009 to 847 in 2010, with 757 of them related to single-family residences, 43 of them for condominiums, and 47 for apartments, in addition to 274 demolitions.
“I think the market continues to slowly build in the right direction,” said Daniel Hunter, manager of Planning and Economic Development for Oakland County. “Of course there’s a lot of existing housing still sitting out there and yet there’s still some buyers in the market that won’t find what they’re looking for that’s existing, so they go to new.
“And this is an indication that there is some financing out there and that there is some demand,” Hunter added.
Although Oakland County has seen an uptick, most of the new residential building permits have been confined to Novi, and Lyon and Northville townships.
Commerce Township has seen the most new residential development in the lakes area, while other villages, townships and cities have seen trends ranging from marginal improvement to no new development at all.
“I think there are fewer large parcels, because then we’re looking at more infill,” Hunter said. “We might still be looking at some lakefront properties where smaller homes would be taken down and larger homes would be replaced.
“And yet some communities may not be at a capacity situation as compared to others,” he added. “You only have so much land, unless property comes on the market that was in another use, be it an educational use or something else that can now be developed.”
SEMCOG reports that factors contributing to the rise in new residential construction include discounts from developers, less-costly homes being constructed, along with the stabilization of the economy and a tapering off of job losses.
“We’ve also seen an increased level of activity in our One-stop Shop (County Service Center) here at the county complex in Waterford,” Hunter said. “It’s a retail center for demographic and mapping data. Our customers are typically builders, developers, and environmental consultants that are looking at land and planning developments.
“We also do a fair amount with smaller businesses that are putting together business plans and they need demographic data to support what they are doing,” he said. “We have noticed a slight uptick …”
What follows is a breakdown of new residential construction permits in each lakes area community, and what local officials expect for 2011 in terms of new residential development.
Milford Village saw 11 permits issued for single-family homes in 2010, up from just one in 2009.
Randy Sapelak, the village’s building official, said that the only project ongoing in the village is a large complex located right behind Milford’s municipal building, encompassing Riverside Street, Riverbend Street and Whitewater Street.
The complex has room for a proposed 69 homes, with one side slated for single-family residences and the other side slated for multi-family residences known as the Townhouses at Riverside Commons, as was approved previously by the Planning Commission.
According to the site plan, 10 homes have already been built at the complex on the single-family portion, but Sapelak said there has been no activity at the multi-family complex.
“According to a real estate agent that I’ve been talking to, there’s somebody who’s trying to turn that section into single-family homes also,” he said.
“I think that project went into foreclosure and I know they’ve been selling off lots and I believe just about all of them are spoken for. I don’t know how that will translate into actual building permits. You never know.”
He added that once spring arrives, he expects construction to begin on about 10 more single-family homes in the single-family side of the complex.
Sapelak said that there are no new residential projects planned in the village this year, and that the village essentially is built out.
Milford Township had 20 permits issued for single-family homes in 2010, up from 11 in 2009. The township also had three demolitions in 2010; there were none in 2009.
So far in 2011, the township has seen two permits issued for single-family homes.
“We have 20 to 25 single-family residences under construction, which are mostly single-family residences and one townhouse,” said Timothy Brandt, the township’s building and zoning administrator.
He said that the two major projects in the township are the Toll Brothers complex, located at Commerce and Hickory Ridge roads, along with an acreage development consisting of three to four homes along Old Plank Road in the south end of the township.
Brandt added that there are no projects scheduled for 2011 and no applications have been submitted for site plan review.
WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP
West Bloomfield Township saw 13 total permits issued for new residential development in 2010, all of them for single-family homes, which is down from 14 in 2009. The township also had four demolitions in 2010, down from 15 in 2009.
So far this year, the township has issued two residential building permits, both for single-family dwellings, along with one demolition.
“We’ve got a bunch of work going on. A lot of it is not new construction — some of it is renovations,” said Tom Walsh, the township’s building director.
He added that there are about 20 new single-family residential units being worked on right now and that about 13 of them are being built on sites where buildings have been demolished.
“We have a lot of inquiries over the counter about demolitions,” Walsh said. “That is up. People inquiring about demolition rebuilds is up from last year.”
He added that it was hard to tell what the township expects later this year when it comes to new residential projects getting under way.
“It’s always a guessing game with us,” he said. “Right now on the books we have six new single-family homes for 2011 and I have one on my desk that I’m going to approve. That’s a total of seven.”
He added that there are no plans for the Building Department to expand.
“What I’m expected to do is use smart business techniques as far as our processes,” Walsh said. “I map out the process and then I look at how I can improve the process and get rid of the waste so my staff can perform at the maximum level.”
New residential housing has remained pretty consistent in Orchard Lake over the last two years with valuations exceeding the $3 million mark, according to Building Official Gerry McCallum.
Permits issued for single-family homes held steady at three in 2010 and in 2009.
New homes constructed during the 2010 fiscal year are valued at $3.3 million, and despite this figure declining from 2009′s $5.6 million, overall residential permits are increasing.
“We are a ‘tear down and build’ community,” he said. “By the valuation of the property they would be mid-size to smaller homes, not monster homes being constructed. It’s either that or they’re getting better prices for materials in this economy.”
SEMCOG reports only one Orchard Lake demolition in 2010 compared to none in 2009.
Compared to new home permits and additions and alterations, miscellaneous permits for other various improvements such as decks have dropped over the past two years. In 2010, there were 79 permits issued for miscellaneous work compared to 69 in 2009.
As for 2011 prospects, McCallum says the future looks bright.
“I’ve had three to five new structure inquires on properties so I’m optimistic,” he said.
New residential construction in Walled Lake has been virtually non-existent over the last two years, although there is very little residential land left for development. According to SEMCOG statistics, one single-family home permit was pulled in 2009 and one demolition was recorded, compared to no residential building permits being issued in 2010. However, Department of Public Works Director Loyd Cureton said that contrary to the SEMCOG report, there were two demolitions in 2010 vs. the zero reported.
“The city took action to demolish a dangerous building on Leon and a developer also demolished an old home, so some of the SEMCOG (data) is inaccurate,” Cureton said.
This year may be more promising. Cureton said the city is in discussions with a developer who is considering construction of a 40-home subdivision comprised of highly energy-efficient homes.
“He contacted us expressing interest in combining parcels to build a very ‘green’ subdivision,” Cureton said. “It’s preliminary as of now and nothing has been submitted to the city.”
Cureton will be meeting with the developer this week to discuss more details.
The city is still realizing some activity in terms of additions and alterations to existing homes.
“Residents are still maintaining and updating, and sometimes enhancing their homes with small additions,” Cureton said.
Yet, to a large degree, the city is maxed out on residential property available for new development, with the exception of a few acres still available along the lakefront and some property off of Decker, according to Cureton.
“Walled Lake is ready for redevelopment vs. new development,” he said. “Right now we’re more interested in commercial rather than residential.”
Due to limited land, the city is diverting their efforts toward commercial property developments.
“The city is promoting and updating its master plan and has been aggressive in rezoning parcels from industrial to commercial,” Cureton said. “We are rolling out the welcome mat to developers who want to enhance the city.”
Residential construction was down a tad from 2009 in Waterford Township, which according to Building and Engineering Director Doug Bradley, is no surprise.
“We have no massive building projects expected like we had in the 1990s, because there is no open land to build on (since) we’re at 95 percent capacity,” he said.
In 2010, there were nine single-family residential permits pulled, compared to 16 in 2009. Demolitions remained on track with 17 reported in both 2009 and 2010.
Currently there are less than a half dozen construction projects ongoing in the township.
“Some are complete new constructions going up from scratch, and many are additions or alterations,” Bradley said.
Despite the scuttlebutt that a developer intends on constructing homes on the property behind Beaumont Elementary School along Elizabeth Lake Road at the northern terminus of Lochaven Road, there are no single-family construction plans for 2010 on the books. Apparently the site development for between 50 and 60 homes was sold after half of the site was developed, utilities were installed, and four homes were built.
“We’ve heard rumors that it was sold to a local developer who wants to start putting up homes, but we’re unsure if he’ll pull the trigger right now,” Bradley said.
Wixom’s new residential construction rose marginally in 2010 compared to 2009 figures.
Building Official John Lipchik reports that in 2009, there was no new residential construction documented and only one demolition vs. five new condo units and six demolitions during 2010.
“The condos constructed were across from the city (complexes) in the Village Center Area,” Lipchik said.
There are no firm residential development plans slated for 2011, despite some developer interest in the north end of the city.
“We have a number of lots for sale that developers are looking at, but no one has committed,” Lipchik said.
In addition to growth in new residential construction, there has been a spike in building permits issued for additions and alterations.
“People are putting money into their houses instead of moving,” Lipchik said.
In 2009, 154 permits were pulled for roofing, siding, furnaces, hot water tanks, driveways, fences, decks, and garages, among other things. That number rose to 208 in 2010.
“We did better in 2010 for these permits and 2011 is expected to be even better,” he said.
The village has not realized any new residential construction in the last two years, nor are there any plans submitted for 2011.
“The expectation is that we’re hopeful,” said Village Councilman and Planning Liaison Brian Nedrow, who attributes the slowdown to residents revamping their homes in lieu of building new homes. He also chalks up the lack of available residential property as an ancillary factor.
“We’re pretty well built out,” he said. “There are a couple lots mostly owned by homeowners adjacent to the lots and some of those may not be buildable due to size.”
WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP
White Lake Township saw the number of residential building permits for single-family homes more than double from 16 in 2009 to 34 in 2010. Township Building Official Brent Bonnivier expects 2011 to be even better.
“We have 14 new ones just since the beginning of the year,” he said. “The last few years we have not had that many in January and February. Hopefully, it’s a good sign of things to come. Usually with that many this time of year it’s a sign that it looks like things are on the way up.”
Bonnivier explained that typically the busy months for construction are in the late spring and early summer months. About eight or nine contractors have talked with Bonnivier about starting housing jobs as soon as the weather breaks a bit this month or in April.
As for current projects, he said there are about a half dozen single-family homes going up in Wingate Lake Estates off of Ormond Road near Jackson Boulevard. Each of those houses will range anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.
Another roughly half-dozen houses of the same size built by Lombardo Homes will be going up near Williams Lake Road south of Elizabeth Lake Road.
There are also a couple other homes around the size of 2,300 square feet being built in Autumn Glen, while a few others scattered around the township are being built from scratch after the previous homes burned down and were demolished.
While Bonnivier remains hopeful that residential building in White Lake will continue to grow, he said he’s unsure of whether that means his department will need to hire any additional staff. Over the past few years, the building department had to downsize by five people due to the lack of building activity in the township.
“I don’t know if I can hire any staff back,” he said. “It would be nice to get that busy again. Everybody is a little leery of hiring staff right now because it’s hard to predict which way things are going to go.”
Highland Township saw a slight increase in single-family home building permits, from three issued in 2009 to four in 2010. Yet, it’s only the third month of 2011, and Highland already has half as many residential homes being built now than in all of 2010.
Although no permits have been pulled as of Monday, Feb. 28, Highland Township Building Official Joseph Weinburger said he has received numerous inquiries about new construction projects this year and some look “very promising.”
However, there has yet to be any formal attempts made by developers to construct any new subdivisions this year, according to Weinburger. Yet, he remains optimistic.
“I do expect more construction activity this year than in 2010,” he said. “There was slightly more activity in 2010 than in 2009. Time will tell how busy we will be this year.”
Weinburger added that the township has been experiencing more home additions and renovation projects lately, which he attributes to the economy and falling home values.
“People are improving what they have instead of losing money on their current home by selling it and spending more for a newly built home,” he said. “I believe this trend will continue until we see some rebound to the current home values.”
Commerce Township had almost three times as many single-family homes being built in 2010 as it did in 2009. Last year, 62 single-family homes were built in comparison to 19 in 2009. There were eight two-family homes built in 2009, while there were none in 2010.
Judy Dombrowski of the Commerce Township Building Department said she expects 2011 to be even better, with anywhere from 75 to 100 new single-family residential buildings going up.
Dombrowski admits that although projections are mostly guess work, the Building Department was pretty accurate with predictions last year.
“We guessed we would have 55 (new single-family homes built) and our actual was 62,” she said. “We have 20 some right now (for 2011) with more coming. It’s picking up.”
Although Commerce is expecting more residential projects this year, Dombrowski said officials have no plans to increase staff in the Building Department.
And although no new developments have been proposed, there are seven subdivisions in the township with 39 active permits among them. The permits are for active projects from 2009-2011.
The Benstein Commons, located on Benstein Road and Loon Lake Road, has the most active permits with 13, and has another 16 permits ready for pickup.
The Hills of Bogie Lake on Bogie Lake Road and Cooley Lake Road has the next highest amount of active permits at 12, but only has one permit pending pickup.
There are seven active permits in Birkdale Pointe No. 2, with only one ready to be picked up; while the Hills of Loon Lake, located on Glengary Road and Wixom Road, has three active permits and one ready for pickup.
Greenbriar on Wixom Road and Loon Lake Road has two active permits and one pending pickup, while Scotland Yard on Ladd Road and McCoy Road has a permit awaiting pickup.
Both Maplebrook, located on Benstein Road and Loon Lake Road, and Charleston Estates on Union Lake Road and Willow Road, each have one active permit.
In addition to the residential building going on in the established subdivisions, there are also seven active permits for private, individual lots in the township.