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November housing starts stall at 861,000

BY Ken Clark

It wasn’t the blockbuster, early Christmas present that construction industry executives were secretly wishing for, but the housing starts report for November at least delivered another big increase over the year-ago figure. 

The Department of Commerce’s New Residential Construction Report for November showed housing starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000. That’s 3.0% below the downwardly revised October estimate of 888,000, but 21.6% above the November 2011 rate of 708,000.

Looking only at single-family housing starts — the bread and butter of dealers and builders — the figures were, once again, down for the month but up for the year. At a pace of 565,000 in November, single-family starts were down 4.1% from October, and up 22.8% compared with the same month last year. 

The building-permit situation showed more momentum. Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in November were at a pace of 899,000, up 3.6% above the revised October rate of 868,000 and up 26.8% above the November 2011 estimate of 709,000.

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Chinese construction lending — with strings attached

BY Brae Canlen

A Chinese bank funding two huge Lennar Corp. housing developments has attached a condition to the loan, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal: Lennar must work with a Chinese state-owned contractor.

The two redevelopment projects, Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point Shipyard in San Francisco, could add as many as 20,000 new housing units to the city, as well as offices and a sporting venue. But Lennar’s $1.7 billion loan from China Development Bank came with a stipulation, the newspaper reported. Lennar has been meeting with China Railroad Construction Corp (CRCC), the newspaper reported. It’s unclear what role the CRCC might play, and whether Lennar is obligated to do business with a Chinese supplier, contractor or some other entity. CCRC recently opened an office in San Mateo, Calif.

Any Chinese contractor working on a San Francisco project would be required to use local, unionized labor for construction, however. A joint venture with a U.S. construction management firm, or an outright acquisition, could possibly satisfy that requirement, the article reported.

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Obituary: Michael D. St. John of Pacific Woodtech

BY Ken Clark

A veteran of the engineered wood product industry, Michael D. St. John died Nov. 29. He was 66.

St. John was integral to the founding of Pacific Woodtech in Burlington, Wash., and its business plan, heading up sales and marketing since 1999. He served as VP and director of the company. He is credited with originating private-labeling in the EWP market.

St. John also worked for Trus Joist for about 22 years. He was a board trustee of APA, chairman of the APA Marketing Advisory Committee and a member on the APA EWS I-joist/SCL Management Committee.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in 1974, where he played football. St. John served in the Navy from 1960 until his Honorable Discharge in 1965, including as a Navy Seal. He was awarded three combat metals.

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