The MOA building safety report, which compiles all new construction activity requiring a building permit, was recently released for the first four months of 2018 and it is not good news for the construction industry. All construction activity is down 19.77 percent when compared to the same time span in 2017. The report categorizes all residential types as well as commercial activity, including alterations (remodeling) and change orders. The permits value the cost for vertical construction only according to a formula internal to the department and does not necessarily reflect market value. It also does not include any valuation for the land. Its purpose is to provide fee income to development services and to assure the public of its health and safety in both commercial and residential construction.

Most of the 19.77% decline has come from the commercial sector. Residential construction permits have actually stabilized with even a slight increase in activity. Unfortunately, this new bottom of ‘normal’ still doesn’t help Anchorage’s housing crisis. Eight new single family starts in 2018 have increased the number to 54 from 2017.  Duplex permits are down 50% and 67 new multi-family permits were obtained year to date, an identical number to 2017. A multi-family permit is categorized as any building with three or more units. Spinell and Hultquist Homes remain the largest builders in Anchorage, clearly outpacing all other builders with fourteen permits for Spinell and thirteen for Hultquist Homes. Combined they make up 50% of all residential activity for single family and duplexes. Spinell also builds in the Valley and Eagle River while Hultquist Homes has a division in the Seattle area. In single family, the owner/builder outpaces both of Anchorage’s leading builders with twelve permits. An owner/builder is usually someone from the trades who does not have a residential endorsement. An owner builder may also be someone who hires a general contractor to build their home but obtains the financing and permit in order to keep more control of the project.        

The permits also track elevator applications which are down from eighty-two to forty-three, an almost 50% drop. No mobile home permits have been issued so far this year which clearly indicates a lack of consumer confidence in the long term financial sustainability of trailer parks which are, ultimately, an interim land holding use. Structural, electrical and mechanical/plumbing permits have all increased substantially. Given the overall decline in permit valuations, perhaps that is an indication that now is a good time for owners to consider remodeling as general contractors try to keep their employees engaged and prices reasonable while waiting out the third year of Alaska’s real estate recession.