Riverhead’s housing permit figures lowest in 10 years; commercial building rises

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Troyan of Riverhead, who has made a name for himself as one of the few designers working in copper on the East End, is building a new workshop/warehouse for his business 'Copper Crafts' on Raynor Avenue in Polish Town.

If the number of building permits issued for new houses is, as economists say, a leading indicator of how the economy is doing, then it’s still not doing that well, judging by the numbers in Riverhead Town last year.

According to statistics from the town building department, there were 58 permits issued for new houses in the town in 2011. That’s down from 81 the year before and way down from 10 years ago. The town reported 381 new housing permits in 2002, 271 in 2003, 184 in 2004 and 190 in 2005. After that, the drop-off became more pronounced, with just 119 new homes in 2006, 124 in 2007, 59 in 2008, 71 in 2009 and 81 in 2010.

But the downturn isn’t unique to Riverhead.

“It’s very difficult to get financing and as a result of that, a lot of people, while they are going through the process, have not been taking out building permits or certificates of occupancy because you can’t get the financing to start,” said Mitch Pally, the chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute. “That’s been the problem.

“The banks say they have money,” he continued, “but the criteria and the standards and the regulations imposed on them have made it very difficult to do real estate financing for almost any type of building.”

Mr. Pally said the situation is not likely to improve until the economy improves.

But while the number of permits for new houses went down, the number of permits for new commercial buildings went up.

The building department stats for 2011 show that 16 permits were issued for new commercial buildings. That’s up from zero the two previous years. There were 111 commercial building permits issued in 2008.

The number of permits for condo units, which had been as high as 262 in 2004, was at 9 in 2011, but that number also was up, from five in 2010 and two in 2009.

The number of permits issued for home additions also was up slightly, with 92 such permits issued in 2011, compared to 72 in 2010 and 87 in 2009, according to the town statistics.

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