Housing starts fall nationwide, hindered by multi-family construction

Nationwide housing starts dropped by 5 percent in August to 571,000 units from a month previous, according to figures released today by the U.S. Commerce Department. The decline was primarily related to multi-family properties, the report notes, with single-family housing production declining by only 1.4 percent.

“At this point, most builders are only looking to replenish their depleted inventories of new homes for sale, but otherwise holding off on new projects,” said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. “While we would like to get more crews back on the job, we need to see solid improvement in consumer demand, greater access to credit for both builders and buyers, and a reduction in the number of foreclosed properties on the market before we can ramp up new production.”

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Single-family housing starts dropped to 417,000 units in August from a month previous, while more volatile multi-family production declined 13.5 percent to a 154,000-unit rate. Overall, the Midwest and West posted month-over-month gains of 2.6 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, and the Northeast and South reported declines of 29.1 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

“Today’s numbers are completely consistent with NAHB’s forecast for the quarter, and are in keeping with the anemic economic and job growth we are seeing across most of the country,” said Robert Denk, a senior economist for the NAHB. — Katherine Clarke

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