Housing starts continued to rise; up 1.6% in March

by WOHe

May 5, 2010 – From the NAHB – Adding more good news to the current housing scene, housing starts rose in March for the third consecutive month. March total starts were up 1.6% from February, up 20% from a year earlier and up 31% from their cyclical low of 479,000 in April of last year — even though single-family production declined to 531,000 units, down marginally from 536,000 in February.

The decline was technical in nature, resulting from a decline in the Midwest following a considerable jump in residential construction activity in that region in February. Even so, single-family starts in March were up 47% on a year-over-year basis, and taking the Midwest out of the picture, they were up 6.9% for the month.

Single-family building permits in March jumped 5.6% from February and 51% from a year earlier, and were at their highest level since August 2008. Builders are obtaining permits at this point to rebuild their inventories — which at 228,000 in March were at their lowest level since early 1971 — and because they are adopting a positive view of future demand.

Multifamily starts, on the other hand, appear to be bouncing along at the bottom. March’s 95,000 starts were just above the first-quarter average of 92,000 starts. Multifamily permits, although from a decidedly low level, have shown an upward bent. This may be an early indication that some financing is becoming available for a limited, but growing number of projects.

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