Lewiston-Auburn makes national list of recovering housing markets

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Lewiston-Auburn has turned a new housing corner, according to a national trade group.

The February update of the National Association of Home Builders’ First American Improving Markets Index added the Twin Cities metro area for the first time. Its criteria: six consecutive months’ worth of improving housing permits, housing prices and employment figures.

L-A is the only metro area in Maine on the list of 98 metro areas around the country.

“We’ll take the good news,” said Larry Duell, president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine and a builder based in Lebanon.

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The recognition has a slight double-edge: Southern Maine has seen more housing starts and continued strong demand but hasn’t made the index because the market didn’t get so bad, he said. Bangor had been on the list and fell off.

In a news release, the NAHB said L-A hit: a low in permits in June 2011 and has grown 16.1 percent since; a low in prices in January 2011 and has grown 1.4 percent since; and a low of employment in June 2011 and has grown 3.8 percent since.

Material prices have held steady, Duell said. “You have mortgage rates around 4 (percent.) Right now is the ideal time to buy, if you can afford it.”

In Lewiston, city planner David Hediger said 23 permits were issued for one- or two-family homes in 2011, seven of them after June. One has been issued this year.

In Auburn, 16 permits were issued for one- or two-family homes between December 2010 and December 2011, according to city planner Eric Cousens. One more has been issued since.

“We make a lot of effort to have a predictable, user-friendly permit process,” Cousens said. Hopefully, that’s showed.

“We know more people are coming to the community because the schools are scrambling,” Hediger added. “It is certainly a positive thing for L-A to be seeing increased interest.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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