Despite high unemployment, housing starts soared to their highest levels ever in portions of Lucas County last year.
Figures gathered by The Blade show that 1,337 houses were built in the county in 2003, shattering a record for a large swath of the county overseen by the county's building regulations department.
Within the city of Toledo, houses went up at a pace not seen in years, officials said.
Permits were taken out for 313 houses, which was nearly double the pace of 2002.
“You couldn't pick a better time to build a house, and there's a need out there,” said Clinton Wallace, chief building official for Toledo's municipal government.
A large number of the houses in the city limits were built in a single subdivision in southwest Toledo between Airport Highway and Angola Road.
He said current municipal building inspectors couldn't recall a year when more houses were built.
Housing starts in Toledo, Maumee, and Oregon are counted separately from those in other areas of Lucas County because they operate separate building permit offices.
The county, minus those three municipalities, issued a record 939 permits for single-family houses, up from 837 in 2002, according to spokesman Kevin Milliken.
Housing starts in the area served by the county office have been running at record levels for three years, said John Walters, chief building official for the county.
There were 102 more houses built in the area last year than in 2002, representing an increase of 12 percent.
“It was a major jump,” said Mr. Walters, who speculated that some families may have built now out of fear that interest rates are about to rise.
In Oregon, 81 houses were built last year, which was seven more than in 2002 but well off a record 101 in 1998.
“It's not a record, but it's above our 10-year average,” said Doug Young, commissioner of building and zoning inspection in the eastern Toledo suburb.
With interest rates still low, many people who otherwise would consider remodeling or adding on are building new, he added.
In 2000, during the height of the economic slump, housing starts in Oregon slipped to 64 but have gradually recovered, Mr. Young said.
Housing starts in Maumee fell last year to four from five in 2002, according to officials there. The construction boom continued last year even though unemployment topped 7 percent, which was higher than national and state averages.