National housing starts see uptick for month

Total units up nearly 30 percent compared to the prior year
May 16, 2012 12:30PM

U.S. housing starts grew 2.6 percent in April compared to the month before, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000 units, according to data released today by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The data also shows a 29.9 percent increase above the April 2011 rate.

April’s month-over-month gain was seen in both the single and multifamily sectors, which grew by a respective 2.3 percent and 3.2 percent. As The Real Deal reported yesterday, single-family home builder confidence increased this month to its highest point in five years.

National Association of Home Builders Chairman Barry Rutenberg said the April housing starts data “is an encouraging sign that we are returning to a gradual, upward trend that should continue in the year ahead as builders respond to improving demand for homes in certain markets.” However, he continued, “overly restrictive lending conditions for builders and buyers are slowing the pace of this trend considerably.”

Broken down by region, the statistics varied. While the Midwest and South posted respective month-over-month gains of 6.7 percent and 11.6 percent, the Northeast fell by 20.7 percent month over month.

“While still less than half the pace of what we would expect in a fully healthy market,” added NAHB’s chief economist David Crowe, “the rate of housing production in April was very solid for this point of the recovery.” He also noted that the numbers keep in line with the association’s findings from builder surveys that showed improvements in buyer traffic and near-term sales expectations for single-family homes. — Zachary Kussin