The local housing recovery picked up steam last month, as the pace of homebuilding jumped to a nearly seven-year high and the number of properties falling into foreclosure continued to slow.

Single-family homebuilding permits, which serve as a yardstick to measure construction activity, totaled 302 in April in Colorado Springs and El Paso County, according to a report Wednesday by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department. That's a 58.1 percent increase over the same month last year.

April's total also was the highest number of permits issued by Regional Building in any month since an identical number of permits were issued in June 2006, records show.

For the first four months of this year, single-family permits totaled 927, a two-thirds increase over the same period in 2012.

Historically low mortgage rates, an improving economy and better job numbers all have been credited with propelling a turnaround in homebuilding.

Nationwide, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.40 percent last week, their lowest point since January, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Meanwhile, the local unemployment rate of 8.3 percent in March was at a four-year low.

Homebuilding is a closely watched sector of the local economy because it employs thousands, including builders, subcontractors, suppliers and the like.

Also, local governments such as Colorado Springs and El Paso County collect sales taxes on the purchase of building materials, which pump millions of dollars into their annual budgets to help fund public safety, parks and other services.

Meanwhile, local foreclosure filings totaled 173 in April, a 41 percent year-over-year drop, a report from the El Paso County Public Trustee's Office showed. Year to date, foreclosure filings totaled 722 through April, down 62.4 percent from the same period last year.

The same low mortgage rates are helping property owners avoid foreclosure by making it easier for them to sell or refinance their homes, housing industry members have said.


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