The Towbes Group has started construction on the second phase of Lavigna, a single-family residential community and the first new single-family homes to be built in Santa Maria in more than two years.

A gated master planned community in the Westgate Ranch area of Santa Maria, the 21-home second phase follows the original 22 homes built by The Towbes Group in 2008. When completed in 2015, Lavigna will feature 118 three-, four- and five-bedroom homes with floor plans ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet, according to Derek Hansen, vice president of development construction for The Towbes Group.

“The economic recession that we’ve suffered through the past three years seems to have bottomed out, and we believe it is a good time to restart construction on Lavigna,” said Hansen, adding that the median age of an owner-occupied home in Santa Maria is more than 30 years old. “In addition, construction is going to generate approximately 150 new construction and related jobs over the coming months, with the majority of goods and services being supplied by businesses right here in Santa Maria.”

The start of construction at Lavigna also is indicative of the predicted increase in new housing starts in California in 2011, another good sign for the state’s economic recovery. According to the Construction Industry Research Board, a nonprofit research center that provides statistical information on the California building and construction industry, construction of new homes in California is expected to increase 30 percent over 2010, when the state experienced the fewest number of new construction starts during the past 30 years.

Statewide, housing starts in California in January 2011 were 76,000 units higher than the previous month, still well below the 2.07 million average monthly housing starts in 2005, according to CIRB statistics.

The Towbes Group will celebrate a grand opening in July with the debut of five new model homes priced from the mid-$200,000s.

— Bruce Beck is a publicist.