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New home builds down from previous year, still higher than pre-pandemic numbers


Despite a high demand for housing, new single-family home builds in Wisconsin were down 24 percent compared to the same time last year.

While it didn’t want to see a decrease in new home starts, the Wisconsin Builders Association wasn’t exactly surprised by the numbers.

“We know that home building is down nationally and across the Midwest,” said Alicia Naleid, Director of Communications for the WBA.

Between April 1 and June 30 of this year 3,328 permits for new home builds were pulled statewide. That’s down 24% from the same period last year.

Though, this year is still doing better than pre-pandemic when there were about 4,100 new home build permits statewide by this time in 2019 compared to more than 6,000 so far this year.

Year-to-date New home builds

Naleid contributes the rise new home builds to a couple things. The pandemic saw some people who were able to keep working with extra income thanks to the stimulus checks.

It was also a time with low mortgage and interest rates.

Now, those things are changing, interest rates are up at the same time inflation is causing prices to rise on the materials needed to build homes.

“People are no longer able to justify those high material costs because of high interest rates,” said Naleid.

Not all counties are seeing new home builds decline.

Some rural counties like Iron, Langlade, Price, and Vilas are up as much as 22% compared to this time last year.

Naleid says remote work is one factor. It’s a news headline many in the Northwoods are now familiar with; people are no longer tied to the city where their office is, so they’re building homes where they used to only vacation.

The other factor is the amount of land available to build. More populated counties have little to no lots available.

“Between 1990 and 2010 there were over 12,000 buildable lots available across the state. However, between 2010 and 2020 that number decreased to just over 3,000 buildable lots available. Simply put in rural areas, there’s more available land at a cheaper cost,” said Naleid.

Workforce shortages are also adding to the challenge.Many builders say they could take on more builds if they had the workers to do them.

Naleid says the WBA is hoping to work with the state legislature next session to finds solutions to labor and other issues that come up that disrupt home building.

Some positive news for those looking to build, the WBA is hopeful new tariffs on Canadian lumber will lower the price of new home builds.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it is lowering the tariffs against most Canadian softwood producers by half.

It will drop from nearly 18 percent to 8.59 percent.

“Increased lumber costs have added more than $14,000 to the price of a standard new home since the pandemic, but even though lumber tariffs are going to be coming down, price for steel, mill products, and ready mix concrete materials are still well above where they used to be,” said Naleid.

You can view the latest permit numbers on the WBA’s website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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