2017 was second-busiest year for home building St. Johns County has seen

PETER.WILLOTT@STAUGUSTINE.COM St. Johns County saw 4,079 permits issued for single-family homes in 2017, just shy of the record of 4,500 issued in 2005.

St. Johns County didn’t see a record year for home building in 2017, but it came pretty close.

 

According to the most recent building report from St. Johns County, December saw 274 permits issued for single-family homes. That left the 2017 total at 4,079.

The number is second only to 2005 when more than 4,500 permits were issued.

“That’s a remarkable year,” said Howard White, the county’s director of building services. “I suspect ‘18 will be more of the same and ‘19 probably more of the same.”

St. Johns County has become the leading destination for building in Northeast Florida — and by a large margin.

As recently as 2006, Duval County’s building rate for single-family homes was almost three times that of St. Johns. But since 2011, St. Johns has been busier than Duval. And it was by a wide margin in 2017: about 1,000 homes.

In fact, this county issued more permits than Duval and Nassau counties combined in 2017.

For the 2017 calendar year, St. Johns County saw about 700 more single-family home permits than 2016.

While the permits for new homes have been rising, commercial has been steady, almost identical to the previous year in total permits.

However, the total valuation of the commercial projects has been much higher this year. In fiscal year 2017, which ended in September, the commercial valuation was about $91 million higher than fiscal year 2016.

The first three months of the current fiscal year, which started in October, was slightly slower than last year at about $24.5 million in commercial projects. That was about $9 million lower than the same period last year.

However, one or two projects can sway the numbers significantly, and there are several major projects that are expected this year.

Melissa Glasgow, the county’s director of economic development, said the 2017 fiscal year was a good one and that the current year is off to a good start. She pointed to the fact that her office received 177 business inquiries in the fiscal year, a 29-percent increase over the previous year.

And this current fiscal year has seen about 20 more inquiries than the same period last year.

“I think we still have good momentum on the commercial permit side,” Glasgow said. “Those numbers continue to trend upward. So we see that as positive.”

The commercial side of permitting is about 20 percent of the total activity, White said.

It’s a continued point of emphasis on the part of the county to push for more commercial activity in order to create more jobs and broaden the tax base. The retail growth has been going along with the growth in the housing industry.

“Our residential growth is exponential right now, and there’s no slowdown in sight,” Glasgow said. “And so, yes, the commercial (retail) activity will follow that.

“In terms of traditional economic development projects — manufacturers, IT, target industry projects — we’re still seeing good interest in those as well.”

 

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