Development Slows in Lakes Region

MEREDITH — The Lakes Region Planning Commission has reported that the pace of property development slowed in 2011, based on the number of building permits issued and subdivision plans approved by the 30 municipalities in Belknap, Carroll, Merrimack and Grafton counties it represents. However, save for the eleven municipalities of Belknap County, home sales and median prices rose elsewhere in the Lakes Region in 2012.
In the Lakes Region, housing permits slipped 9.3-percent, from 216 in 2010 to 196 in 2011, less than half the more than 500 permits issued during the recession of the early 1990s and a fraction of the nearly 1,200 permits issued between 2002 and 2005 when the numbers peaked before the economy slumped. Single-family family homes represented 90-percent, multi-family dwellings seven-percent and manufactured homes three-percent of the residential permits issued in 2011.
In Belknap County, which accounts for half the housing units in the region, 100 residential permit were issued in 2011, compared to the annual average of 561 permits between 2000 and 2006. In the eight towns in Carroll County (Effingham, Freedom, Moultonborough, Ossipee, Sandwich, Tamworth, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro) the 63 residential permits issued in 2011 were a fifth of the annual average of 300 issued from 2000 to 2006. The six municipalities in Grafton County issued 31 residential permits and the five in Merrimack County, including the city of Franklin, only nine. Together Laconia with 46 and Moultonborough with 29 accounted for 37-percent of all the residential permits issued in the region.
With 20 of the 30 municipalities reporting data for commercial and industrial permitting, the commission found that 70 new commercial buildings, with 112,622 square feet of space, were permitted in 2011. Accounting for demolitions, conversions and expired permits, the net gain was 58 commercial buildings — 30 of them in Moultonborough — with a total of 105,866 square feet of space. Franklin was the lone municipality in the region to permit an industrial building.
Likewise, only two-thirds of the municipalities reported approvals for residential subdivisions. In 2011, 1,130 acres were subdivided, about half the 2,362 acres reported in 2010 and little more than a third the annual average of 3,195 acres subdivided from 2000 to 2010.
The report includes data on home sales and median prices through 2012 from the New Hampshire Realtors Association. Belknap County posted the lowest volume of sales, just 45 units,compared to 75 in 2011, 52 in 2010 and 58 in 2009. The median sales price also fell from $205,000 in 2011 to $182,000 in 2012.
Sales rose slightly in the parts of Carroll and Merrimack counties within the Lakes Region and dropped by a single unit in the Grafton County towns. While median sales prices rose elsewhere in the Lakes Region, in Belknap County it dropped from $205,000 to $182,000.
Noting that the median age of 41.7 in New Hampshire ranks it as the third oldest state in the country, the report suggests that the aging population may dampen demand for housing.