Nationwide housing production edged up 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000 units in February, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. This slight upward movement represented gains in both the single-family and multifamily sectors, with single-family housing starts reaching their fastest pace since June of 2008.
"Demand for new homes and apartments is definitely rising as the spring buying season approaches and more young people move out on their own," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "Builders are responding to this improved demand by putting more crews back to work and pulling more permits for future construction, though this positive activity is being constrained by continuing issues with appraisals and credit availability for both builders and buyers, and also by newly arising challenges such as lot shortages and increased costs for labor and materials."
"Today's report indicates that, despite some bumps in the road, overall housing production continues on the solid upward trend that we saw throughout 2012," noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Moreover, further gains in permit issuance are a positive sign that home construction will continue to drive economic and job growth in the coming months, albeit at a slower pace than would be possible without certain limiting factors."
Single-family housing starts eked out a 0.5 percent gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 618,000 units in February, bringing them to their highest level since June of 2008, while multifamily starts rose 1.4 percent to 299,000 units.
Regionally in February, combined single- and multifamily housing production rose strongly in the Northeast and Midwest with gains of 18.4 percent and 37.5 percent, respectively, but fell 5.7 percent and 7.2 percent in the South and West, respectively.
Overall permit issuance rose 4.6 percent to 946,000 units in February, the strongest pace since June of 2008. That gain included a 2.7 percent increase to 600,000 units on the single-family side and an 8.1 percent increase to 346,000 units on the multifamily side.
The Midwest, South and West posted respective gains of 1.4 percent, 9.9 percent and 6.4 percent in permitting activity for February, while the Northeast posted an 18.2 percent decline.