2015 in SWFL Ends with a Housing Surge

2015 ended on an up note for promised Lee County housing starts – 216 percent up for multifamily projects compared with this time last year.

As if rushing to make its new year’s resolutions before midnight, the county permitted 200 multifamily units in December including those being built on Lehigh Acres land. November had been sleepy with only six such permits, and 2014 had closed with only 30.

A highlight of the 12th month was The Reef in Estero, which got its green light for 174 units of off-campus student housing at 19655 Three Oaks Parkway – a first for the village’s new design review board.

Single-family homes didn’t do badly in unincorporated Lee, either. The year ended with 132 December permits, almost two times more than the previous year, according to the county’s community development department.

And for 2015 overall, the county ticked up 21 percent in the home permit sector this doesn’t include the massive gains in Charlotte county including Port Charlotte land.

With a total of 1,202 single-family and 2,094 multifamily units permitted in 2015, Lee starts promised a market value of about $491.3 million.

Cape Coral’s housing market in 2015 was at its healthiest in a long while, with August and October breaking the 100 permit threshold for single-family homes. That hadn’t happened since 2007.

The Cape issued six duplex and 95 single-family permits in December.

Bonita Springs finished the year with 601 single-family and 40 multifamily permits issued. Although slightly under its 2014 performance, the year proved demand for Bonita housing continues strong into 2016.

2015 may be remembered as the year foreclosures progressed so far in the reverse direction since the recession as to become a nonissue.

The year cash sales began to slow; lending markets began to open up; and mortgage rates increased – timidly – for the first time since the recession.

But the year’s hottest development was a headline-making ALN Apartment News study that placed the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area among the most rent-burdened metro areas in the country

“Florida has the highest number of renter households in the U.S. paying unaffordable rent, with nearly 1 in 3 renter households in Florida’s top 10 metro areas paying at least half of their household income (before taxes) toward rent and utilities,” a survey by nonprofit Make Room found.

With the year only half over, Fort Myers area rents had risen over 14 percent from the year before. Statewide, the people most severely burdened by high rents: 6,223 people aged 18 to 34, and 4,257 people ages 50 to 64.

While real estate experts see an exciting lineup of new construction starts on the 2016 horizon, the same can’t be said for affordability.

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