CROWN POINT | Signs of life in the housing market brought developer Tom Fleming to the Plan Commission this month for something board members hadn't seen in a while: a request for approval of a new subdivision.
Board member Bill Feder said it was the first residential subdivision to come before the Crown Point board during his term.
"It's been five or six years," board Chairman John Marshall said.
Construction of new single-family homes in the city had rebounded by last year to a healthy 167 permits issued. Permits for new construction had fallen to 72 in 2008 on the heels of a nationwide economic downturn.
Recent new home construction in the city has been shared among a number of existing subdivisions, leaving a dirth of buildable lots, Fleming said.
"Builders are starting to scramble because nothing new has come in in five years," Fleming said.
That led Fleming to seek Plan Commission approval in March for the 41-lot second unit of the Highlands of Ellendale Farm.
Single-family homes in the $280,000 to $350,000 range are planned on the lots, located northwest of Ellendale Farm on the city's west side.
Fleming said 16 of the 41 lots have deposits on them, and that potential homebuyers include local residents ready to shift into a new home and others from across the state line in Illinois.
Ellendale Farm was built starting in 1996 and includes 380 homes, including those in the first unit of the Highlands of Ellendale Farm.
The request for a subdivision approval, which was granted by the planning board, was a welcome change from an earlier string of requests for extensions of planned subdivisions, board members said.
"We've done a lot of extensions," board member Dan Rohaley said.
New housing construction in the city peaked in 2005, when 295 permits for single-family homes were issued.
In those heady days, the planning board was getting requests for two, three or even four new subdivisions at some board meetings, Rohaley said.
A return to 2005 levels may not be on the horizon, but board members are happy with what they're seeing.
"We're in the new economy now," Marshall said. While it's not the economy of 2005, "it's the economy we've got to deal with."
And if construction rebounds better than expected, there will be a push to get housing developments online, Rohaley said.
"Everybody I talk to has a positive outlook for 2013," Rohaley said. "Interest rates are at historic lows. Spring is coming, and we're gearing up for a big year."