After a slowdown a year ago, Lawrence builders are on pace for an increase in new home construction.
The number of permits issued for single-family homes through October was up 4.7 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the city's monthly building permit report.
David Reynolds, president of Lawrence-based Apple Tree Homes, said his company had noticed the increase.
"The vibrancy of this year seems to be particularly strong," Reynolds said. "I don't know if we're setting any records, but clients have been much more optimistic than they were the last couple of years."
Builders took out 34 permits in October, making it the most active month this year. The previous monthly high was 33 permits issued in April. The numbers also were up from the 25 permits issued in September but down from the 43 permits issued in October 2002. For the year, builders have started 264 single-family homes, up from 252 during the same period a year ago.
The strong month puts builders on pace to eclipse last year's total of 299 single-family home starts. That tally marked the first time in 11 years builders had not started at least 300 homes in a year.
Despite the increase, 2003 isn't likely to set any home-building records for Lawrence. At its current pace, the number of new single-family homes started is expected to fall about 5 percent below the community's five-year average and about 12 percent below the 10-year average.
Reynolds said he thought low mortgage interest rates were continuing to spur new homebuyers, and he credited a general increase in consumer confidence for this year's uptick.
"Customers seem to be more willing to spend the money to really go after what they want in a home," he said. "From my experience, I think people are becoming much more positive about the economy. I think if they turn off the national news and just look at what's going on around them, they'll find there's reason to be upbeat about the economy."
Other information from the city's building permit report included:
l The total value of construction projects started during October in the city was nearly identical to last year's total. Builders have started $114.81 million worth of projects in 2003 compared with $115.88 during the same period last year. This year's values, though, are about 9 percent below the community's five-year average and about 1.5 percent below the 10-year average.
l Duplex construction has dropped 32 percent from a year ago. Builders have started 67 duplex units, down from 89 in 2002.
l The largest construction project started in October was a new $3.9 million Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house in the 1500 block of Sigma Nu Place. Other large projects included an $880,000 On the Border restaurant at 31st and Iowa streets and a $135,000 Pepper Jax Grill at the northwest corner of 10th and New Hampshire streets.