POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – New residential construction in Pound Ridge has dropped off considerably in the past several years, and town building inspector Jim Perry points to the sagging economy as the sole culprit.
“There are very few [new houses] being built,” Perry said. “I have two new homes going up now, and there are none pending. Last year, we did just one. Five or six years ago, we did around 30 a year. We are way off on new construction, and I attribute it 100 percent to the economy.”
The town has plenty of subdivisions sitting fallow and awaiting construction, but developers have shown no interest, Perry said.
“During the boom, around 1999 to about 2006, we had a lot of houses being built, but we had a shortage of land; now, it’s just the opposite,” he said.
With so few houses being built, there’s no way of telling what trend is taking place. “Of the two homes currently being built in Pound Ridge, one is a substantial house and the other one is a small, modular home,” Perry said.
But his department remains busy thanks to home renovations, Perry said, although the projects are modest in scope.
“There’s lots going on, but the size [of the projects] has gone way down,” he said. “We are seeing lots of kitchens and bathrooms as opposed to major additions and major rehabs. Most of these projects are way under $100,000.”
Perry, who was a building contractor for 25 years, says he knows that it sounds funny when a home remodel costing less than $100,000 is considered small. But prices continue to climb, he said.
“Even though there is not a lot of work being done, prices have not come down,” Perry said. “Maybe labor prices have come down somewhat, but material costs are up and the final numbers are not coming down.”
One of the reasons for the steady stream of building permit applications is interest rates are low, he said.
“Now is the time to do it because you can borrow the money cheaply,” he said. “So things like roofs, bathrooms – projects that needed doing four years ago – are finally getting done.”
The drop-off in new construction is not just in Pound Ridge, Perry said. It’s taking place all across Westchester.
“I meet once a month with the Building Inspectors Association and everyone in it is saying the same thing,” he said. “I do hear that commercial projects are picking up, but that doesn’t mean that much to me because we don’t have much commercial property here in Pound Ridge.”
Perry said he’s not sure what the future holds for residential construction.
“I don’t know what it will take to change it,” he said.