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Austell leading for city permits:County housing continues climb

MARIETTA — New housing construction continues to climb in Cobb, and an unexpected city, Austell, led the way in issuing November building permits.

It’s the same story being told across metro Atlanta, said Jimmy Graham, community affairs director for Austell.

“During the crunch, we had one developer go out of business after he only got a third of the houses in there,” Graham said of the city’s major subdivision development, called Stonebrook, that was stalled by the Great Recession.

Graham points to the subdivision underway near the Cobb-Douglas county line off of Causey Road near Veterans Memorial Highway for the city’s 32 building permits issued in November this year.

Austell issued no permits in November 2012.

Graham said the Stonebrook development has between 65 and 70 lots and will be priced between $200,000 and $300,000.

Development is starting to return, he said.

“Before the crunch, we were annexing and developing subdivisions it seemed like all over the place but a lot of builders went under,” Graham said.

In the last few years, he said, the city was lucky to issue two building permits a year.

Wendy Bunch, president of the Cobb Association of Realtors, says Austell hasn’t just been a victim of the economic downturn. It’s still struggling to recover from a 2009 flood that destroyed property throughout the city.

“It is great to see that Austell is leading the way because that city was so devastated by the flood … I mean businesses were underwater. Six Flags was under water,” Bunch said.

Some property is still boarded up waiting to be repaired from the flood, Bunch said, but more and more home buyers are becoming attracted to Austell because of its convenience to interstates, downtown Atlanta and Cobb schools.

It’s a variety of buyers that come to her office, including first-time buyers and empty nesters who are downsizing. Low interest rates are inspiring more people to take the jump into home ownership, Bunch said, but those rates won’t last indefinitely.

“You just have to know, they’ve been low, they’ve been record-low for so long at some point they’ve got to start moving back up,” Bunch said.

Housing fared better countywide in 2013

Across Cobb, 140 building permits were issued in November. That’s up from the 71 handed out in the same month last year.

For the year, Cobb has given 1,522 permits. That’s 445 more than the 1,077 that had been granted at this time in 2012.

But it’s more than double the 700 permits given by this time in 2011.

In November of this year, unincorporated Cobb issued 79 permits. Marietta gave out eight, Acworth four and Smyrna 17.

Both Kennesaw and Powder Springs gave no permits.

A definite resurgence in new-home building was seen this year, said Christi Trombetti, a member of the Cobb Planning Commission who represents parts of east Cobb.

She says east Cobb, particularly the 30062 zip code, got the most attention this year.

“It is unclear for now, how much of the activity was compensation for the quiet years and whether the numbers will be the same or higher in 2014,” Trombetti said.

Most of that new construction comes with a price tag of $500,000 and more. There’s still a large demand, Trombetti said, for new homes priced around $300,000 and below.

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