January housing starts show signs of life

Housing starts showed some signs of life last month, particularly in the multi-family segment, though builders still are holding back in an uncertain market.

As HCN reported yesterday, the U.S. Department of Commerce said January housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.012 million, 0.8 percent above the revised December estimate of 1.004 million. The Midwest and Northeast posted strong gains in month-over-month housing starts. Multi-family housing starts rose 22.3 percent, while single-family home starts fell 5.2 percent.

“Single-family builders in our latest surveys have indicated that improving affordability factors and the large selection of homes on the market are helping draw more potential buyers to model homes in recent weeks,” said David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Still, at 743,000 units, single-family home starts declined for a tenth consecutive month to their lowest rate since January 1991. Single-family permit issuance was also at its lowest since January 1991, at 673,000 units.

January’s starts were 27.9 percent below the revised January 2007 figure of 1.403 million units. Single-family unit starts numbered 743,000, 5.2 percent below December’s figure of 784,000.

Overall permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, according to the NAHB, declined 3 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million units. Single-family permits were down 4.1 percent, while multi-family permits essentially were unchanged at 375,000 units.

Regionally, the Northeast saw a total increase of 18.9 percent month-over-month, with a 43.8 percent increase in single-family units. The Midwest saw a 12 percent increase month-over-month, with single-family units coming in flat. The South saw a total decline of 2.9 percent, with a 9.8 percent decline in single-family units, compared with December’s figures. The West saw a decline of 6.2 percent overall in February, with a 20.3 percent decline in single-family units.

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