Home starts in the Tri-Cities are off to a strong start this year, the strongest since at least 2006, according to statistics compiled by the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.
"We're up over where we were last year," said Executive Director Jeff Losey.
The number of home starts in January is higher than a year ago as well, he said.
According to the association, 134 building permits were issued in January for single-family homes in the Tri-Cities, compared with 111 in 2010.
This year's figures also are up from the best recent Januaries, 2008 and 2006, Both those years, 127 new home permits were issued.
Pasco has seen the biggest year-to-year rise over 2010, with 54 permits issued for new homes, compared with 32 the year before.
The number of housing starts also were up in Richland, where 32 new home building permits were issued. The year before, 26 single-family residential permits were issued.
In West Richland, home starts grew from five in January 2010 to eight this year.
Losey said west Pasco, between Road 68 and Road 100, is experiencing rapid growth, especially north of Interstate 182.
In Richland, builders are at work on many new homes in the Horn Rapids planned community, he said. South Richland around Leslie Road also is popular.
Jessica Hollandsworth, a real estate agent for New Tradition Homes, said her company has seen consistent growth in new home construction in the year she has been with the company.
She said the company has signed at least 16 contracts to build new homes since Jan. 1.
"I know Pasco, Richland and West Richland, and the Horn Rapids area are really growing for us," she said.
"We don't have a big volume in Kennewick," she said. But the company has been approached by several people wanting to build homes in the Inspiration Estates development in Kennewick.
Losey cited several factors that he thinks are contributing to the growing numbers.
He said the low apartment vacancy rate of 2 percent is putting pressure on renters to move out and buy a home.
Losey also said home buyers are capitalizing on low interest rates on home mortgages, partly as no one can predict how long interest rates will stay low.
Additionally, the Tri-Cities is one of the few places in the region and the nation where home values are appreciating, which makes buying a home more attractive.
According to building permit statistics, Kennewick is one of two places in the Tri-Cities where home starts were down from January 2010.
Kennewick issued 21 single-family residential permits in January, compared with 33 the year before.
Numbers also dropped in Prosser. No new home permits were issued in January of this year, compared with two in January 2010.