Permits portend new-home gain

Barring another economic hiccup, White Hall is on track to build more homes this year than in 2019.

According to White Hall statistics, there have been 29 new permits issued to date for single and multifamily home construction, along with another three commercial construction permits.

In 2019, the city issued 32 new-home construction permits and two commercial permits, said Mayor Noel Foster.

The city already has exceeded its 2019 commercial building stats, and Foster said, “Yes, I think we will meet or exceed 2019 numbers.”

These numbers don’t include other permitted construction projects, including four home swimming pools, three home additions, 16 storage units like stand-alone shop not little portable ready-to-purchase units, said Larry Reynolds, Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission director. Adding these brings the total number to about 40 as of Sept. 30, Reynolds said.

“I don’t think construction has slowed down. In fact, I think covid-19 has helped the construction business,” Reynolds said.

This includes do-it-yourself projects as well as professional builders. Reynolds’ comments are backed up by national news about traffic and profits rising at big-box home improvement retailers that, when the pandemic struck, were prepared for a huge downturn. Lumber prices are also high because demand has outstripped supply.

Reynolds said he’s not surprised with all the folks who were asked to work from home during the statewide shutdown, and for many the paychecks didn’t stop. Both Foster and Reynolds are confident in White Hall’s building future, in large part because the city just approved plans for three subdivisions. One of those may not happen at this point.

“Preliminary plans have been approved,” Foster said.

The two projects’ plats were designed by the civil engineering firm, Lemons Engineering Consultants Inc.of Cabot for developers.

One subdivision, Cannon Addition, has room for 30 homes, and it’s located near Hunter’s Refuge on Harrod Drive. Cannon Construction Co. of Pine Bluff is the subdivision’s developer.

The second subdivision, Trussell Estates, is east of Green Oaks, near where White Hall Avenue turns into Robin Road. According to the plat, there are 56 lots. Jan Den Enterprises LLC of DeWitt is the Trussell Estates developer.

Tim Lemons, owner and lead engineer at Lemons Engineering, said, “The property owners believe these are good investments. We’re seeing growth in Jefferson County.”

He promises more residential construction to come and said he is working on two projects, one in White Hall and the other in Pine Bluff.

With the widening of Sheridan Road on both sides of Interstate 530 and the installation of utilities, Reynolds said the White Hall construction forecast looks bright as well.

In about 18 months or less, he said, “It will be prime for development.”

Lemons agreed and said, “We see it as unprecedented potential going forward.”

Although construction on the subdivisions may start before the year’s end, it will spill over into 2021, Reynolds said.

He predicts it will be another good year for builders.

Reynolds said White Hall is growing and houses don’t sit empty long. There is a need for more modest housing, between 1,800 and 2,200 square feet, and both the planned subdivisions address this need, Reynolds said.

Retired couples, singles and small families find this type of housing appealing, as well as having smaller yards to maintain, he said.

Jessica Williams, a Realtor with Down Home Realty in White Hall, is aware of the two planned subdivisions and said, “We are very excited to be getting new homes in White Hall. Our inventory is low, and we desperately need homes to sell.”

While the larger homes sell, Williams said, there are plenty of potential buyers who “want a nice decent home, nothing over the top and at affordable prices.”

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