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Delaware

Demand for city permits paints sunny picture

Delaware housing permits issued in 2013 were most since recession began

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Results from 2013 and plans for the next two years have convinced city of Delaware officials that residential development is back in a big way.

According to figures the city administration presented at a joint meeting with the Delaware City School District in late January, 313 new residential permits were issued in 2013, up 54 percent compared with the 204 permits issued in 2012.

David Efland, Delaware's planning and community development director, said 2013's results were a sign that the area's housing market has recovered significantly since the recession.

"This was the first year ... since 2007 where residential permits exceeded commercial permits again," Efland said. "It's an environment the last five, six, seven, eight years where we've been (seeing) a record number of commercial permits, even in a pretty tough economy."

While 2013 was a recent peak for the city in terms of residential permits, it's still far below the prerecession housing boom. In 2005, the city issued 619 residential permits -- a 25-year high.

"In the 2000s, we got a little overheated in all things housing throughout this nation and here, as well," Efland said.

He said city officials expect residential numbers to remain solid in the next few years.

"We would anticipate 2014 would be at least as strong as 2013," he said. "From predevelopment conversations that we've had, 2014 and 2015 look like they're going to be pretty robust years."

While 2013 was an especially strong year for residential permits, that didn't mean it was a down year for commercial permits. The city issued 240 commercial permits in 2013 -- the second-highest total on record.

Efland said even city officials were caught somewhat off guard that commercial permitting remained so strong in recent years.

"That shows you the strength, I think, of our community and the willingness of people to invest in our community," Efland said.

The city also saw growth in 2013 in the area referred to as "blanket permits," which Efland described as permits for "all things residential that are not new buildings." Examples would include permits for additions, sheds and finished basements.

Efland called the growth in blanket permits "truly remarkable."

The city issued 2,193 blanket permits in 2013, up from about 1,500 in 2012.

"This can be (seen) as a measure of people's willingness to put value and put improvements back into their home," he said.

Efland said the city's population was about 36,500 at the end of December.

He said the city could reach 37,000 residents by the end of March.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city's population was 34,753 as of 2010.

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