Published January 29. 2014 5:00PM Updated January 29. 2014 10:54PM
A disappointing December for housing permits left the state a bit short of hitting the building-activity levels seen in 2012, but most towns in southeastern Connecticut saw gains last year.
"We're happy to see we're moving in the right direction," said Nort Wheeler, owner of Mystic River Building Co. and first vice president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut.
Only 286 housing permits were issued last month, far short of the 524 granted the previous December, according to numbers released this week by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
The 4,027 permits issued last year left Connecticut about 3 percent short of the activity level seen in 2012.
Several local towns bucked the trend, however. Groton recorded 51 housing permits last year, compared with only 14 the year before, and Ledyard's total rose from 24 to 44. Stonington, Old Saybrook, New London, Preston, Waterford and Montville were among the municipalities to see smaller increases.
The only local towns to show slight decreases in housing activities were East Lyme and Norwich.
Wheeler, former president of the Builders and Remodelers Association of Eastern Connecticut, said he expects stronger housing activity this year, centered on affordable housing including apartments and multifamily dwellings. He added that there is still a great market for custom homes because interest rates are still low.
Wheeler said he hopes the state can hit the 5,000 level for housing permits this year, which would be a nearly 25 percent jump from this year's figures. But he said it likely would be a long time before the state reaches the 10,000-permit plateau it hit a decade ago.
"It's a great buyers' market as long as people have confidence in their jobs," he said. "I think it's an optimistic picture."