The housing market, according to most experts, is slowly reviving after a downturn related to the expiration of the home-buyer tax credit in the spring. However, the construction recovery is very uneven across the country. While some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas – such as Washington D.C. and New York – have issued the largest number of housing permits in the past year, mid-sized metros in the Carolinas and the middle of the country actually have stronger new-housing markets, as measured by permits per capita.

According to Reed Construction Data, the metros of El Paso, Texas, and Des Moines, Iowa, lead the nation in combined single-family and multi-family permit levels per capita. Both metros missed the 2004-06 housing boom, so they suffered relatively little when the market turned into a freefall. As a result, their home-price declines and mortgage foreclosure rates have remained well below national averages, while employment has held relatively steady in both places.

Permit issuance is an indicator of future building activity, and the implication for ULI members is the new-homes market may be recovering faster in parts of the central U.S. than on the coasts. Here are Reed Construction Data’s Top 10 housing markets by permits per 1,000 population from November 2009 through November 2010:

Rank

Metros
over 500,000 Population

Housing Permits
Nov. 2009-Nov. 2010

Permits per 1,000 Population

1

El Paso, TX

4,396

5.85

2

Des Moines, IA

2,778

4.94

3

Houston, TX

28,092

4.79

4

Little Rock, AR

3,219

4.70

5

Charleston, SC

3,026

4.59

6

Raleigh-Durham, NC

7,352

4.52

7

McAllen, TX

3,287

4.44

8

Columbia, SC

3,196

4.29

9

Austin, TX

7,261

4.26

10

Omaha, NE

3,115

3.67

(Source: Reed Construction Data.)