Building Permit Peak in Malheur County

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Incentives and demand for housing have prompted a surge in new construction in Malheur County, which in June issued its highest number of permits since 2015.

Construction crews are working on the site of a 179-unit RV fleet in Ontario on Friday, July 16. (AUSTIN JOHNSON / The Enterprise)

ONTARIO – Expect to see more orange vests and hard hats in town.

From home renovations to new housing, Malheur County is under construction as builders try their luck in a high-cost, high-demand market. In June, the Malheur County Building Department issued its highest number of permits in a single month since 2015.

The total of 195 licenses – excluding some in Ontario – represents a 38% increase from June 2020.

Most of the permits were for plumbing and electrical work on existing properties, but a few were from new companies.

Between January and June, the County of Malheur issued 13 new single-family housing permits outside of Ontario.

The city of Ontario separately issued 178 permits between April and June – some for the same sites as the county’s permits – for projects valued at more than $ 35 million. New housing permits over the past six months have included 13 single-family homes, 70 townhouses and four duplexes, according to data from the city’s construction department.

Dan Cummings, director of community development for Ontario, said much of the increase in permits in Ontario comes from large-scale projects, including a new senior care facility on Arcata Way and a park in 179 unit motorhomes at 225 SE10th Street.

“These are the big ones that have increased our income and our market value,” Cummings said. “I attribute this to our housing incentive program.

As of 2017, the City of Ontario’s Housing Incentive Program has provided a cash incentive of $ 10,000 for the construction of owner-occupied single-family homes on municipal land or on property the city may annex.

“Most of the new homes that I see are improvements made to the locals,” Cummings said. “But someone has to buy.”

Construction site for the future commercial tire in Ontario on Friday July 16. (AUSTIN JOHNSON / The Enterprise)

Real estate developers can also apply for incentives through the Eastern Oregon Border Board of the Oregon Community Foundation, including $ 6,000 for new owner-occupied homes and a property tax refund for the owner up to. at $ 1,500 per year for 10 years.

Homeowners improving property in the Malheur County border area with Idaho, excluding the Vale and Annex school districts, can get up to $ 20,000 to increase the assessed value of their property.

Such repairs to existing properties constitute most recent permits.

“I think most are related to Covid. Everyone is at home, ”said James Grissett of GHS Construction in Ontario. “These are all DIY enthusiasts and homeowners who carry out their side projects that they have been putting off for years.

Grissett is developing six townhouses and a triplex on North Oregon Street. but said housing incentives are not the only factor forcing new construction.

“Housing is definitely needed in Ontario,” said Grissett. “If we want to bring people in, we have to build good housing. “

Strong demand, a labor shortage and overbooked contractors have made construction an increasingly risky bet. Grissett said the cost of hiring workers has increased and developers are turning to contractors for labor.

The shortage of building materials has also pushed up construction costs. For example, 1,000 board feet of lumber typically sells for around $ 300, but peaked at $ 1,700 in May, according to Markets Insider. Prices have since fallen by more than half from the peak, but still remain high.

Grissett said that although he had to delay some plans due to the high cost, he and other developers are taking the risk of building in Woe County.

“Waiting won’t solve the housing need,” Grissett said.

Tip for the news? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]

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