Privately-owned housing starts in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000, 5 percent below the revised July estimate of 601,000 and 5.8 percent below the August 2010 rate of 606,000, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Single-family housing starts in August were at a rate of 417,000; this is 1.4 percent below the revised July figure of 423,000.
"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 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "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."
"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 NAHB Senior Economist Robert Denk. "That said, we continue to anticipate modest gains in new-home production through the end of this year with greater momentum building into 2013, and some pockets of improvement are already evident in about a dozen metros nationwide."
Regionally, combined starts activity was mixed in August, with the Midwest and West posting gains of 2.6 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, and the Northeast and South posting declines of 29.1 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.
Building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 units in August, their highest level since last December. Single-family permits gained 2.5 percent to 413,000 units, while multifamily permits gained 4.5 percent to 207,000 units.
Permit issuance rose in three out of four regions in August. The South was the only region to post a decline, of 1.3 percent, while the Northeast, Midwest and West posted gains of 3.3 percent, 6.3 percent, and 11.3 percent, respectively.