Atlanta reported the strongest metropolitan-area home building activity in the nation for the fifth straight year in 1995, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

This summer's impending Olympic Games helped stimulate building activity in Atlanta.

Phoenix, Chicago, Washington, and Las Vegas followed Atlanta in the volume of building permits issued last year. Of the top five metropolitan areas, however, only Phoenix and Atlanta actually showed growth from the 1994 level.

New housing permits fell slightly or remained relatively stable around the country. But a few areas saw significant growth. Miami, in particular, reported that permits increased 21% in 1995.

Miami's growth came as no surprise to Robert Barrera, president of Financial Research Services, a lender there.

The city's economy and weather make Miami a popular place to live, and that fueled Financial Research's expansion last year, Mr. Barrera said, adding: "We had a very good year."

Tourism and international trade are just two areas that help propel Miami's economy, consultants say.

"You have a lot of businesses that keep a lot of people employed," Mr. Barrera said. "It's a very vibrant community."

But while Miami was growing, most urban markets saw declines last year - double-digit decreases in some cases.

Orange County, Calif., fared worst, with permits down 23%. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was off 21%; Pittsburgh, 20%; and Boston, 17%.

The slide should slow this year, said Randy Smith, president of the home builders association.

Mortgage rates are expected to remain low, and as a result, single- family housing starts should rise 2% nationally in 1996, Mr. Smith said.

Karen Talley contributed to this report.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.