Nationwide housing starts were virtually unchanged in February, inching down .2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000 units, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau.

"Continuing the January trend and in line with our recent surveys, builders are in a holding pattern. Poor weather is keeping many from getting into the field and they continue to face challenges related to a shortage of lots and labor," said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. 

"While housing construction is in a recent lull due to unusual weather conditions, we expect to see an improvement as the winter weather pattern subsides and builders prepare for the spring selling season," said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist. "Competitive mortgage rates, affordable home prices and an improving economy all point to a continuing, gradual strengthening of housing activity through the rest of the year. Moreover, building permits, which are less dependent on weather and are a harbinger of future building activity, rose above 1 million units in February."

Single-family housing construction rose .3% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units while multifamily starts edged 2.5% lower to a 312,000-unit pace.

Regionally, combined housing starts activity was mixed in the month, posting gains of 34.5% in the Midwest and 7.3% in the South and declines of 37.5% in the Northeast and 5.5% in the West. 

Issuance of new building permits rose 7.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.02 units in February. Single-family permits edged down 1.8% to 588,000 units and multifamily permits rose 27.6% to 407,000 units. Regionally, overall permits rose 6.3% in the Northeast, 9.9% in the South and 17.9% in the West but declined 11.8% in the Midwest.