Clark County permit activity for townhomes up 66% as builders tackle affordable housing

The Building Industry Association of Clark County (BIA) reports an increase of 66% in townhome permit issuance from 2019 to 2020 in Clark County. In 2019, the total number of permits issued was 62 whereas in 2020 the number of townhome permits was 103. While townhome permits rose, single-family home permit activity saw a slight dip of about 12.8% between 2019 and 2020.

This could signal an emphasis on building to meet the “missing middle” (a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types, compatible in scale with detached single-family homes) and tackle the crisis of housing affordability. According to the National Association of Home Builders, it is called the “missing middle” for two reasons: due to its scalability and its ability to deliver affordable housing options to middle-income households.

While an increase in rents charged remain unchanged for many for a majority of 2020 due to the COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium, no protections are offered for those moving into the area or switching housing options. Though landlords cannot raise rents on existing tenants, they can raise the price per unit when advertising a vacancy. With the current state of interest rates, mortgages are often in-line with, or less than the cost of renting. The BIA commends the builders building to meet the “missing middle” so that homeownership can become a reality for more Clark County residents.

While the BIA is ecstatic to report the great news on the housing affordability front, seeing a slight decline in the number of permits issued in the single-family segment of the home building market is disappointing considering the demand for such dwellings. Clark County is experiencing a housing inventory shortage across price-points, with less than a one month supply available. It is not surprising that home prices increase with a historically low supply and high demand. Therefore, the BIA recommends an emphasis on building homes at all price-points in 2021 so as not to contradict the efforts made on the housing affordability front.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.