Single-Family Home Starts Unchanged in March
Characteristic volatility in the multifamily sector pushed nationwide housing starts down 10.8% in March while production of single-family homes remained unchanged, according to numbers released by the U.S. Commerce Department on April 16.
Total starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 units last month. The decline resulted from a 29% drop on the multifamily side, which largely offset a big gain in apartment and condo building in February.
“While improving interest among potential home buyers has builders more optimistic these days, we don’t want to ramp up production until sales of new homes pick up,” noted NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. “A cautious attitude about new building is definitely what’s called for here, and that’s what most builders have wisely adopted for the time being.”
“Today’s numbers are right on target with NAHB’s forecast, which anticipates that housing starts will bottom out in the second quarter, after new-home sales have stabilized,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
“Single-family starts remained virtually unchanged over the past three months, indicating that we are closing in on a bottom,” Crowe said. “Multifamily starts — which tend to bounce around from month to month — were responsible for the decline in total starts as they readjusted following a substantial gain in February.”
Crowe noted that while builders have been seeing more sales office traffic and fielding more calls in recent weeks as consumers respond to historically affordable home buying conditions, many continue to grapple with a severe credit crunch for acquisition, development and construction financing (AD&C).
“A substantial recovery in housing of the kind that’s required to help get the national economy back on its feet will not happen until the logjam in AD&C lending has been broken,” he cautioned.
Single-family housing was started at an annual rate of 358,000 units in March, the same as the previous month; multifamily housing production was reported at a yearly pace of 152,000 units.
Housing starts were down in three out of four regions of the country in March. Starts were up nearly 16% in the Midwest, and down 25.4% in the Northeast, 16.8% in the South and 26.3% in the West.
Building permits, which can be a harbinger of future building activity, also fell in March. Total permit issuance declined 9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 513,000 units, with single-family permits falling 7.4% to 361,000 units and multifamily permits declining 12.6% to 152,000 units.
Permit issuance in March declined across every region except the West, which showed no change. Permits fell 24.3% in the Northeast, 2.3% in the Midwest and 10.3% in the South.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit — including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
Spanish Version Also Online
A Spanish version of this increasingly popular Web site is also available to provide detailed information on the tax credit to Spanish-speaking first-time home buyers.
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight either tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
Plan to Attend Construction Forecast Conference
Plan to attend or watch the 2009 Spring NAHB Construction Forecast Conference & Webcast on Thursday, April 23 in Washington, D.C. to get the latest facts, insights and analysis of the housing industry.
Panels of nationally recognized experts at the day-long conference will discuss economic trends, government policies, developments in the housing industry and the results from NAHB's recent surveys.
For more information and to register, visit www.nahb.org/cfc.
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