Working for Smart Growth:
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Built Out but Still Growing

Built Out but Still Growing


Geographic patterns in building permit activity can offer insights into underlying macroeconomic forces that are influencing people’s residential location decisions. They provide a preview into what types of places will be gaining population in the coming years.

The issuance of a building permit is the first step in the process of constructing a new building, or rehabilitating an existing one. As such, building permit activity serves as a leading indicator of construction activity, which is itself a leading indicator of population change.

With the decade of the 2000s drawing to a close, we now have 10 years’ worth of building permit data – 2000 through 2009 – to summarize and compare with the previous decade (1990 through 1999). The comparison reveals several interesting trends that are worthy of closer inspection:

  • Building permit activity increased significantly in the 2000s in municipalities that have already developed most or all of their developable land; a change in New Jersey’s building code at the end of the previous decade that made redevelopment easier is likely a major contributing factor to this increase.
  • Construction activity in these same locations has not been affected as adversely as the rest of the state by the recession of the late 2000s.
  • The issuance of permits for multi-family housing became much more geographically widespread in the 2000s as compared to the previous decade.

Download report:
Built Out but Still Growing (PDF)

Download the companion table (PDF), detailing building permit activity by town.

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