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New building permits in Maine have started slowing down

New U.S. Census data show that new building permits issued in Maine have begun to decline in recent months.

According to recent figures from the bureau, 593 permits for new housing were issued in the state in June. That's less than the number recorded in April and May, and a significant drop from the more than 800 permits issues in June of last year.

Kelly Flagg, the executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, said she's not surprised by the numbers, as the industry has faced major cost increases for materials such as steel, lumber and copper.

"So when you start to see the combination of product cost increases like that, and interest rate increases, it changes things," Flagg said.

Still, Flagg said that contractors are still busy, and there are opportunities to build more large infrastructure projects, such as affordable housing.

"It's a time that we do need to fill those gaps with publicly-funded projects. And we still need affordable housing. So there's an opportunity to keep the construction industry working, even as things are changing," she said.

The Census Bureau reports that more than 6,500 new building permits were issued in Maine last year, an increase of nearly 25 percent as compared to the year before.

Rising interest rates have also affected existing home sales. The Maine Association of Realtors said that sales of existing single-family homes fell nearly 10 percent in June, compared to a year before, though home prices have continued to rise.