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Housing Starts Rebound in February, but Permits Drop

WASHINGTON - Housing starts rebounded 9 percent in February following a 14.3 percent drop the month before, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The pace of construction increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.525 million units for the month, but was down 28.5 percent from a year earlier.

Construction of new single-family homes was up 10.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.220 million units in February. The increase followed an 11.2 percent drop in January.

Permits, a less volatile measure of housing construction activity, were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.532 million units, down 2.5 percent for the month and off 28.6 percent from a year earlier.

"Unusually good weather in the South and West enabled builders to begin construction of many single-family homes that had been sold and permitted earlier," said Brian Catalde, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "At the same time, unusually bad weather held down building activity in the Northeast and Midwest regions."

"Shifting weather conditions have created a lot of month-to-month volatility in both housing starts and building permits during recent months," said David Seiders, NAHB chief economist. "The trend lines are still slightly downward, although we probably are now approaching a bottom in the market."

"NAHB's forecast shows a gradual increase in housing starts beginning in the second quarter of this year, although we expect that total to be down about 17 percent from 2006," Seiders said.

Regionally, construction of new homes and apartments in the South and West was up by 18 percent and 26.4 percent, respectively. Housing starts were down in Northeast by 29.7 percent and in the Midwest by 14.4 percent. All four regions reported a pace of construction well below a year ago.

Multifamily housing construction increased 4.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 305,000 units in February. The increase followed a 24.5 percent decrease in multifamily construction the month before.

Single-family permit issuance was down 3.1 percent to a pace of 1.089 million units for the month. This was 32.9 percent below a year earlier. The pace of multifamily permit issuance dropped 0.9 percent to 443,000 units for the month. This was 15.3 percent below the February 2006 pace.

Publication date: 03/19/2007

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