City has approved 21 land use permits for single-family dwellings so far in three months of 2018

JASON CHANEY - Home building continues to pick up in Prineville.

The mild winter has encouraged local developers to keep on building through a time of year where home construction often stalls.

During the first three months of 2018, Prineville City Planning Department has received application to build 21 single family home dwellings and 16 other building projects.

"That is pretty good for being mostly in the winter," said City Planning Director Josh Smith.

These strong numbers come on the heels of a busy building year in 2017. According to Crook County Planning Director Ann Beier, the county issued 448 land use permits in 2017 compared to 372 in 2016 and 353 in 2015. Similarly, the county approved 2,483 building permits last calendar year versus 1,905 in 2016 and 1,784 in 2015.

"We anticipate a continued uptick in building permits and inspections," Beier said. "We have seen a lot of people who bought property in 2016 and 2017 are jumping right in to get permitted."

As strong of a start as the city has seen in its land use applications, Smith said the numbers will likely climb as the weather warms.

"We usually pick up right around June," he noted, adding that many building projects are in the pipeline that were approved by the planning department last year.

Some of these projects figure to substantially boost the inventory of low-income housing. Housing Works, a Central Oregon region housing authority, is building a 29-unit complex in the old Ochoco Elementary building and recently received approval to complete a 30-unit mobile home park.

In addition, 14 units are planned for a subdivision off of Peters Road, a 14-lot development is slated for property near the local skate park, and another 46 lots are planned for development south of Mariposa Avenue.

"IronHorse is still building," Smith added. "Pahlisch Homes is still building. I talked to Pahlisch about doing a third phase. Housing is still rolling."

Smith was hesitant to compare the recent housing surge to the boom days of last decade, although he did acknowledge that it has a similarly busy feel.

"We are not getting the huge planned unit developments we were getting then," he said. "We are backfilling the lots that were already there. You are getting small subdivisions."

How long the uptick in housing construction will last remains a mystery. However, Smith said a short supply and high demand for housing has kept current rent and homes prices high.

"If you get what we have approved on line, it will really add to the supply and reduce demand," he added.

Also, as more homes get built, even ones that don't meet the entry-level price threshold, Smith can see the amount of low-income homes increase. He explains that some residents who can afford a home might currently be renting an apartment or another home because it is all that is available. But as more homes get built, those people will move on and buy a home.

"If we could just get more housing on line, people will generally move to the house they want, freeing up other types of housing," he said.

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