Often is heard that a recession is over when home building starts to roar back on the economic scene. Who do we hear that from? Economists, political commentators and writers, government sources, bankers, other lending companies, politicians and people in the construction field. Probably, others, too.

We wouldn’t go as far as to say the recession is over, but new home building starts, and existing home values are trending upward, according to a number of reports.

The city of Washington reported a sharp increase in single-family building permits in 2012 compared to the year before — from 7 to 21. That’s a huge leap upward and it’s encouraging.

In Franklin County, through April of this year and April of 2012, the county issued the same number both years, 32. The building department manager told The Missourian recently that she expects an increase in home building permits this year. Last year there were 87 permits issued for single-family homes compared to 101 in 2011. However, with 12 permits in April, that was the highest number in that month since 2009.

The city of Washington has relaxed its building code to permit more homes in subdivisions by lowering the lot size requirement, which is good news to developers. More land is needed in the city for housing. That’s why annexation is so important.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that home prices surged during the first quarter at the fastest pace in seven years.

We’ve been going through an economic recovery that has fostered optimism due to starts only to be darkened by downturns and stops. It’s best to be cautious about the recovery.

“The housing market revival — and an accompanying report on consumer confidence — adds new grist for a debate inside the Federal Reserve about how far to push its easy-money policies, including an $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program which has helped to keep mortgage rates near historic lows, boosted asset prices and begun to stimulate hiring and spending,” The Journal said.

ormer U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, in a commentary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported that home sales are up 9 percent in Missouri compared to last year. He urged, because of lessons learned the past six years in the housing crisis, that attention be given to educating and counseling people about home purchases, especially first-time buyers. He wrote that education and counseling become part of the mortgage process. Good suggestion.

We’ve heard a number of stories about developers, contractors, subcontractors, realtors and suppliers who have felt the sting of the housing crisis, which has lasted too long. Of course, we all know about the foreclosures that have occurred. Based on the number of public notices we’ve published, the foreclosure crisis hit this area a little later than in other places. We published more than 20 in Wednesday’s edition. There are others that are being published in the Weekend Missourian. Overall, the foreclosure legal notices are down compared to last year.

That’s a high number and is an indication that there’s still a problem in this area in meeting housing loan obligations.

There are bright spots in housing, but dark clouds persist.