Smartmoney ranks Tri-Cities No. 1 in nation for housing

A new report on lists the Tri-Cities as one of the nation's five brightest spots in an otherwise drab economic landscape.

The online publication's report says the region's four cities will be No. 1 among the five best communities in the nation that will see increases in 2010 fourth-quarter home prices.

The report lumps together Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland and predicts just under a 4 percent increase in home prices over the same period of 2009, according to Tuesday's website posting on the Wall Street Journal's digital page.

Nationally, average home prices for the fourth quarter of 2010 are expected to fall more than 8 percent, compared with a year earlier, noted.

Joining the Tri-Cities on the plus side are four other metropolitan areas with predicted economic promise: Fairbanks with 3.2 percent improvement; Charleston, S.C., with 3.1 percent gain; Corvallis, Ore., up 3 percent; and Anchorage, with 2.7 percent gain.

"This report is consistent with what we've been hearing about our continued growth in the Tri-Cities," said Jeff Kossow, Kennewick's economic development director.

Kossow noted that while other parts of the nation have had hard times and struggled to get through the economic downturn, the Tri-Cities seems to have missed the worst of it.

"We haven't seen the bubble burst and we didn't see the bottom. We are continuing to see people come in and do things here," he said.

As an example, Kossow points to booming construction permits in the city of Kennewick.

This year, 323 permits were issued in January and February, with a valuation of $23,636,609. The same months in 2009 had 213 permits at $9,552,590.

Single-family housing starts in Kennewick for the same months were 59 this year at $13,189,922 and 18 last year for $4,039,764, Kossow said.

"This report follows a CNN article that describes Kennewick among a handful of metropolitan areas that have bucked the trend, by being either flat or posting slight gains," he said.

Kossow quoted CNN: "The biggest winner will be the Kennewick metro area where home prices ramped up 8.9 percent over the past three years and are expected to go up 3.4 percent by June 2010."

CNN also mentioned Fairbanks and Anchorage as strong spots for economic recovery.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529;