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HOUSING STARTS UP 17% IN UPSTATE AREA THROUGH JULY

A resurgent market in upstate New York pushed single family housing starts up 17 percent through July.

Niagara County construction is growing steadily, with new builds up 17 percent from 139 through the first seven month's last year to 162 through July this year, according to the New York State Builders Association.

Erie County housing starts are up 6 percent to 605, compared to 571 during the same period last year.

Ryan Homes Division Manager Lauren Eastman said relatively inexpensive lot prices have made the Lockport area a strong market. Eastman said the company expects to sell more than 100 homes in Western New York this year, topping the 80 sold last year.

"The summer was strong for us. July and August are usually slow, but we sold 26 houses during those two months. I was pleasantly surprised. I think the low interest rates are really helping some people who would otherwise want to think about it," Eastman said.

Lancaster has been a popular residential construction spot in Erie County, with lot prices more affordable than other suburbs such as Clarence and Orchard Park, according to an executive with Marrano/Marc Equity Corp.

Lancaster is also seeing some significant multi-unit housing investment. Niagara Lutheran Health System kicked off its $40 million 150-unit senior apartment project last week. The project is Phase II of a 52-acre campus which includes a recently completed $18 million health and rehabilitation home.

Philip LaRocque, executive vice president of the New York State Builders Association, said the Niagara Frontier and Northern New York regions have shown some of the strongest growth this year.

Although the local market is improving, the big residential construction money continues to flow downstate. Single family housing starts on Long Island have increased more than 22 percent this year.

The rise in housing starts is leading to shortages in some areas. Officials with the builders association in the Hudson Valley said framers are becoming hard to find. Niagara Frontier Builders Association officials said insulation is in short supply here.

The statewide builders association is lobbying for first-time home buyer tax incentives and streamlined building permit regulations to further stimulate the market.

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