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Interactive Map: Residential Building Permits in NJ

Boom in approvals of new multifamily units propels climb back to construction levels prior to recession.

New Jersey is building homes again, though only at levels just starting to approach the pace of construction when the recession hit.

While rebuilding at the Shore may be a small part of what’s driving an increase through May of this year of about 45 percent compared to the first five months of 2012, the real story is a boom in construction of multifamily units in North Jersey, particularly in Hudson and Bergen counties.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the 1,491 new residential units authorized for Hudson County through May of this year account for about 17 percent of the 8,912 units authorized statewide in the first five months of 2013. That total compares with 6,136 through May of last year.

About half of the permits for Hudson County were in Jersey City, with a total of 776, more than twice as many as second-ranked Lyndhurst, which had 311 authorized permits.

Several Shore communities hit by Superstorm Sandy – Long Branch, Stafford, Toms River and Barnegat -- issued more than 50 permits each.

Meanwhile, 151 municipalities, many of them small built-out boroughs, as well as a pocket in northwest Jersey, have authorized no permits this year. A total of 33 of those towns have not issued an approved permit for new construction since at least 2008.

New residential construction levels dropped dramatically in the late 2000s due to the national recession but appear to be finally starting to rebound.

Last year, officials authorized a total of 17,939 units throughout the state, a marked increase from the 12,952 approved in 2011. The number of units bottomed out in 2009 at 12,421, the smallest number issued in more than two decades. The pre-recession high during the last decade was in 2005, when 38,588 new housing units were authorized statewide.

In addition to showing a significant overall increase, the building-permit data also showed an historic shift in home construction in the state, as New Jersey officials issued substantially more permits for multifamily units than for single family homes. It’s a trend demographers and sociologists have said was coming, as many so-called Millennials prefer to live in more urban areas near entertainment and public transportation.

For example, only seven of Jersey City’s 776 permits so far this year are for single-family homes, with the rest for multifamily housing units. Last year, about 59 percent of the permits issued were for multifamily units. Since 1990, only twice before, in 2006 and 2008, did the number of multifamily unit permits exceed those for single family, but then by only 100 or less. Last year, the number of multifamily units authorized exceeded the number for single-family homes by roughly 3,400.

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