WASHINGTON - Housing starts decreased moderately to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.969 million units in April, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported. The pace was 2.1 percent below March's revised rate of 2.011 million, but 20.3 percent above April 2003.

"Builders remain confident about the market as demand for single-family homes and condominiums remains strong, even as mortgage rates begin to edge up," stated Bobby Rayburn, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

"Momentum in the housing market is as strong as ever," said David Seiders, NAHB's chief economist. "Housing starts in March were boosted by an unusual swing in weather conditions, and the April pace actually was above the average for the first quarter of last year.

"On the financing front, mortgage rates have risen from their March lows, but remain quite favorable on an historical basis. Furthermore, stronger growth in jobs and income is supporting housing demand, and that pattern should continue throughout the year."

Single-family housing starts decreased 0.6 percent to a pace of 1.610 million units for April. This was an 18.1 percent increase over the April 2003 pace.

Multifamily housing starts decreased 8.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 359,000 units for April. The multifamily pace was 31 percent above a year earlier.

The pace of housing construction increased across all regions but the West, which fell by 13.7 percent.

Issuance of total building permits in April increased 1.2 percent from March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.999 million units. This was 11.2 percent above April 2003. Single-family permit issuance decreased by 0.7 percent from the March pace, while multifamily permits were up 8.3 percent.

"Buyer demand is strong, inventories of unsold houses are lean, and there's a sizeable backlog of unused building permits," said Seiders. "This bodes well for housing production in the coming months."

Publication date: 05/17/2004