Building permit demand high
The recent nationwide housing slump, which has roiled U.S. and international financial markets and cornered many home owners in a distressing mortgage crunch, is not translating to any dramatic changes in the local housing markets.
An analysis of building permits shows the demand for new homes remains high, and the number of new homes being built has increased compared to last year.
Edgartown issued 61 permits for single-family homes through August, including nine permits for an affordable housing complex. For the same time period last year, Edgartown issued 39 permits.
Building activity was down slightly in West Tisbury, but essentially flat in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.
"We are pretty steady, about the same number of permits as we have seen over the last several years," said Kenneth Barwick, building inspector for the town of Tisbury. "I see the mode and manner changing. I see more people turning toward a modular design. The values are accelerating."
Mr. Barwick says that the independent contractors he oversees have all the work they can handle. "I don't have anybody in a scenario where they don't have work," he said. "They all seem to be moving right along job to job. They're doing more additions, more renovation than new homes."
Chilmark is the only Island town which still caps the number of building permits, and the town has already reached its limit of 12 permits this year. "I've got people waiting in line," said Chilmark building inspector Leonard Jason Jr. "This is the longest people have ever waited. We're busier than ever."
Mr. Jason says the nature of the construction has changed dramatically over the past decade. He remembers when nearly every permit he issued was for a similar style, 1,600 square foot home. "It's definitely larger houses," he said. "It's not unusual to see three, four, five thousand square feet."
It also appears that the distress in mortgage markets has not made it across from the mainland. In recent months, the rate of foreclosure on homes has exploded in Massachusetts, with some towns reporting that rates have doubled or tripled. On Martha's Vineyard, five foreclosures have been recorded so far this year, two each in West Tisbury and Edgartown, and one in Oak Bluffs. By comparison, there were three foreclosures on the Island in all of 2006.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) has compiled figures on the rate of housing construction and made projections about future growth. The MVC counts 15,133 homes on Martha's Vineyard today. If current zoning laws remain in effect, and current rates of construction hold steady, the commission estimates a 53 percent increase in the number of homes over the next 50 years.