Housing starts in Lucas County and surrounding areas fell sharply last year, indicative of the weak local economy.
There were 800 single-family housing permits issued in Lucas County, down 18 percent from the 973 the year before, a county office said. Even the growing northern suburb of Bedford Township, Michigan, reported a 34 percent drop in permits, to 159 from 239.
Permits for Toledo and Maumee were virtually unchanged last year, at 117 and 10, respectively.
Oregon reported a 33 percent decline to 57 permits from 76 the year before. Whitehouse was the only county community that separately reports its housing starts noting an uptick, to 103 from 93.
Figures for Wood County, a growth area, were not available.
Builders generally attributed the fewer permits to an oversupply of homes, buyers who couldn't sell their existing homes, and a sluggish economy that dried up corporate transfers.
"What we experienced locally is an oversupply of homes, so you saw a number of builders stepping out of the speculative market to let this oversupply diminish," said Tim Schlachter, president of Buckeye Specialty Homes Inc.
He conceded he was wrong about his prediction a year ago as president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo Inc. that housing starts in 2005 would jump by 5 percent.
Jon Jones, in charge of sales for Decker Building Co. in Lambertville, said the company built 35 to 40 homes last year, off from its usual target of 50.
"The last two or three months of the year were pretty flat for us," he said. "We had a lot of problems with people who wanted to build but they couldn't sell their houses, especially coming out of Toledo."
Homes for sale in seven out of nine markets in the metropolitan area stayed on the market longer last year than 2004, the Toledo Board of Realtors reported in November. The longer periods ranged from 16 days to nearly 50 days.
"For this year, you'll see the market just slowly gaining momentum," said Mr. Schlachter. "The first half is going to be slower, although it's not doom and gloom."
The National Association of Home Builders estimates that single-family home starts this year will be 1.59 million nationwide, down from last year's 1.71 million.
Michael Dean, an officer with the local home builders group, said excessive inventory is a problem for home builders.
But, he added, builders were busy finishing up contract work, often on homes costing at least $350,000, before breaking ground on new projects.
"From my own experience, I already have several contracts for this year, so I'm really swamped," said the owner of Michael Development Ltd. in Toledo.
Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at