WASHINGTON -- Privately-owned housing starts in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000, 4.8 percent below the revised April estimate of 744,000, according to new data from The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Single-family housing starts in May were at a rate of 516,000, 3.2 percent above the revised April figure of 500,000.
Single-family housing production increased for a third consecutive month and builders pulled more permits for both single- and multifamily construction in May. The data reveals that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of single-family housing starts rose 3.2 percent to 516,000 units - the best pace since December of 2011.
"Today's report is a good sign that builders are cautiously moving to replenish their depleted inventories of single-family homes in response to increasing buyer demand," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "In certain housing markets across the country, the momentum toward recovery is gradually building, though tough credit conditions and inaccurate appraisal values continue to weigh down that progress."
"The latest data provides evidence of the kind of slow but steady growth that we expect to see in housing production through the end of the year, and shows that housing continues to regain strength regardless of some weakening in other parts of the economy," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Particularly encouraging are the gains in permit issuance posted in both the single-family and multifamily sectors in May, which are indicative of builders' intentions to start new projects in the coming months."
Regionally, dips on the multifamily side drove down combined housing starts in all but the West, which registered a 14.4 percent gain. The Northeast, Midwest and South posted declines in total housing starts of 20.3 percent, 13.3 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.
However, strong gains in new permitting activity for both single-family and multifamily homes drove the combined permitting number for May up 7.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 780,000 units - the strongest pace since September of 2008. Single-family permits were up 4.0 percent to 494,000 units (best pace since March of 2010) while multifamily permits gained 15.3 percent to 286,000 units.
Three out of four regions posted gains in combined permit activity in May. The Midwest, South and West posted gains of 6.1 percent, 11.1 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, while the Northeast registered an 8.0 percent decline.