Housing Starts, Building Permits Plummet

Housing starts dropped 8.8% month-over-month in March to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million, while single-family housing starts tumbled 9.2% in March to a rate of 764,000, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Housing starts with five or more units fell 8.5% from February to March to 312,000.In line with starts, building permits in March fell 7.7% from February to 1.18 million, with single-family authorizations dropping 1.2% to a rate of 727,000 and permits for buildings with five units or more plunging 20.6% to 324,000.

Still, despite the fall in March, privately-owned housing starts were up 14.2% from March 2015 and building permits in March were 4.6% over the March 2015 estimate of 1.04 million, Census said.

Meanwhile, housing completions fared better in March and were up from February by 3.5% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.06 million, according to Census. The March rate was 31.6% above what it was a year prior.

“The supply of new homes coming to the market has improved, as the number of homes completed and under construction both reported gains in March,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist with the Wells Fargo Economics Group. This strengthening trend bodes well for new home sales, which have been held back by tight inventories.”

“The housing market seems relatively well positioned heading into the spring home buying season. We expect housing starts to gain momentum in the year ahead, and cap 2016 up 11%,” Vitner added.

- Nicholas Stern, NACM editorial associate

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