New home building has slowed to a near crawl in most municipalities, but not in Halfmoon.
Thanks to a backlog of projects approved in past years and a development-friendly government, the suburban town has seen a steady number of building permits issued while other municipalities suffer through the housing slump.
Eighteen housing developments are currently under construction, and last year Halfmoon issued more building permits than any other municipality in Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany or Rensselaer counties, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The town issued permits for 200 units in 137 buildings, leaving behind towns like Clifton Park and Wilton, which used to overshadow Halfmoon in terms of new residential construction. Last year those towns issued permits for 61 and 82 units, respectively.
Peter Belmonte Builders has four developments under construction, all off Farm to Market Road in the northern section of the town. Bruce Tanski Construction, Charlew Builders, Abele Builders and Marini Brothers all have projects under way as well.
The eastern side of the town near routes 4 and 32 is also now seeing development.
Most of the homes currently under construction were approved several years ago, as the town carried an inventory of approved building projects that was likely higher than other municipalities.
“They have projects that have been on the books for easily three, four, five years,” said Michael Valentine, senior planner for the Saratoga County Planning Department. “And they’re just now coming through.”
That could mean the developers have enough money to hold on to the land for several years before building, he suggested.
Halfmoon is known as a good place to develop, said Peter Aust, president and CEO of the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
“They’re a town that’s open to planning and development, a very streamlined process. So developers like working with the town,” Aust said. “The second part is, they’ve got land.”
While Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs and Wilton have already built out much of their useable land, Halfmoon still has land available.
The town is open to approving various housing types, being flexible to meet demand, said Planning Board chairman and building and development administrator Stephen Watts Jr.
“I think the town of Halfmoon has been responsive to the economy,” he said.
In the past three years, more than 35 percent of the building permits issued have been multi-unit housing with three or more housing units per building, some of which are rentals and others are owner-occupied condominiums. Overall, 29 percent of the town’s housing units are rentals.
For years, Halfmoon was overshadowed by neighbor Clifton Park in terms of development. The town to the west started growing substantially 50 years ago, in part because of its proximity to Schenectady and abundant land suitable for housing.
“It’s no doubt we’re in different phases of our growth patterns,” said Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett. “The town [Clifton Park] is really in a mature phase.”
Clifton Park’s suitable land is mostly built out, and officials have become more choosy about allowing new developments as they learned from years of experience, Valentine said.
Also, the town never fully recovered after lifting a two-year hous ing moratorium on the west side in 2005.
“Clifton Park’s been slowing down for a number of years,” Valentine said.
Halfmoon is attractive for residents because it is within easy commuting distance from Troy, Colonie, Schenectady and the Albany area, said Rocco Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission.
He wonders what would have happened to Halfmoon in the past few years if the economy had been good.
“Would development have taken off that much more?” he asked.
Elsewhere, developers are having trouble getting financing to build, especially to build homes, which are more speculative than commercial development.
New housing has slowed in Malta despite the promise of GlobalFoundries opening its computer chip plant. In Wilton, building also has slowed, although there’s still apartment development.
Rural Moreau is picking up, with three large subdivisions proposed on Bluebird Road, but is far from the explosive development of southern Saratoga County, Valentine noted.
Saratoga Springs, once booming in terms of new building, slowed years ago, as much of the city’s core was built out.