Interactive Map: Tracking New Jersey’s Sluggish Home Construction Industry

Colleen O'Dea | April 15, 2016 | Map of the Week, Maps
Figures for 2015 show that the number of building permits for residential construction continues a downward trend from 2005

New Jersey’s employment picture is looking up, but residential construction has not yet recovered from last decade’s Great Recession, data shows.

Preliminary numbers for building permits issued for housing construction in 2015 indicate a continuing downward trend from the peak this century in 2005. That year, the data from the state Department of Community Affairs showed that New Jersey municipalities issued nearly 40,000 permits for residential units. Last year’s roughly 19,300 permits were slightly less than half the number of a decade earlier.

It was also down from 2014, which had logged the most housing permits issued since 2007, the year in which the recession officially began. In 2014, officials issued almost 22,900 permits, or about 16 percent more than last year.

DCA’s Construction Reporter, which reports on trends in both home and nonresidential development, wrote that last year’s preliminary data indicates “mixed signs of recovery for New Jersey’s construction industry.” While new home construction was down, the amount of construction work in 2015 totaled nearly $15.1 billion, which was 4.4 percent more than in the previous year.

The strength of housing construction varied dramatically. Jersey City was the clear leader, issuing 2,649 building permits last year, about 87 percent of which were for multifamily units. Lakewood was a distant second, issuing 782 permits, 92 percent for one- or two-family homes. Just 46 municipalities approved 100 permits or more. Then again, 129 towns issued no residential permits and another 49 gave out just one.

Statewide, the housing trend has shifted away from one- and two-family homes in favor of higher-density development. In 2005, more than two-thirds of permits were issued for one- or two-family housing. Last year, just 49 percent were for old-fashioned suburban homes.

That trend was one that began early in this century, with the construction in Jersey City of the Goldman Sachs tower and two high-rise housing buildings, each with about 500 units. Before that most residential construction was likely to be single-family houses in suburbia, probably Ocean County. Now more urban or densely populated areas in Hudson County, as well as Newark and Princeton, are seeing greater development in multifamily housing.

While less home construction started last year, more was completed. Municipalities issued more than 15,200 certificates of occupancy in 2015, nearly 2,000, or 15 percent, more than in 2014. The certification of a housing unit is the last step in the construction process and may not occur in the same year in which the permit is issued.