Island construction continues to drop, but builders find ways to keep busy
The pace of construction of new single-family dwellings has declined since 2005, in all six Island towns. The decline is dramatic in down-Island towns, and a review of new construction permits, from 2005 through 2009 year to date, finds the pace of decline quickening.
In conversations this week, Island builders acknowledged the construction slowdown, but as they described their efforts to prosper in the downturn, each described a different approach to keeping themselves gainfully occupied despite the tough times. Builders also said that summer, the hot moment for retailers, restaurants, and lodging businesses, is not the peak season for the construction business. Still, finding work is a priority year-round, especially now. "We're very busy trying to stay busy," one builder said.
Towns permitted 212 new single-family dwellings in 2005. That number fell to 166 in 2006. There was an increase in 2007, to 207 permits for new homes, but permits fell sharply to 136 in 2008.
By the end of May this year, 40 new houses were approved by Island building inspectors, but extending this number, according to the pace in earlier years, suggests that fewer permits will be issued in the 2009 calendar year than were issued in 2008.
While the construction of new single-family dwellings has sputtered, permits for additions and renovations to existing homes have remained fairly constant during the five years under review.
John G. Early, the former long-time West Tisbury selectman and town representative to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, is a general contractor with headquarters in Tisbury. His company has a broad involvement in residential construction, including new houses, renovations, property management, and maintenance of existing homes.
According to Mr. Early, the construction business has been very slow this year. "It's definitely not what it has been in the past," he said. "We have a certain amount of work to do, but we're definitely feeling the crunch."
Mr. Early said that while many projects have been postponed, it is typical for the summer months to be slower, because vacationers don't want to hear hammers and saws when what they want is peace and quiet.
Norman Rankow, president of Colonial Reproductions Inc., said his company focuses on high quality construction, rather than the number of new projects it undertakes each year. Work has been fairly consistent for his business in 2009, and he thinks it will remain steady.