WASHINGTON - Housing starts continued at a vigorous pace in July, slipping just 0.1 percent for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.042 million units, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures. The pace of starts in July was 2.8 percent above a year ago and remained above 2 million units for the fourth month in a row.

Single-family housing starts edged up 0.5 percent to a pace of 1.711 million units for the month. This was 3 percent above the pace of a year ago.

"Builders are working hard to keep up with buyer demand," said Dave Wilson, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Even though mortgage rates have edged up in recent weeks, they are still very affordable and continue to fuel the housing market."

"The fundamental supports for housing demand are still in place," said David Seiders, NAHB's chief economist. "Financing conditions remain favorable, job formation is fueling household growth, and ongoing increases in house values are bolstering the ownership appeal of single-family homes and condo units."

Three of four regions reported an increase in housing activity for the month. In the Northeast, construction of new homes and apartments rose by 6.5 percent in July. The Midwest was up 9.1 percent and the West increased by 2.1 percent. The pace of construction decreased in the South by 5.4 percent.

Multifamily housing starts dropped by 3.2 percent for the month, but the seasonally adjusted pace of 331,000 units was 1.8 percent above the pace of a year ago.

Issuance of total building permits increased 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 2.167 million units for the month. Single-family permit issuance was up 2 percent to a record pace of 1.686 million units for the month. The pace of multifamily permit issuance was up 0.4 percent.

Seiders noted that the backlog of unused permits was historically high at the end of July, particularly in the single-family sector. "Builders have accumulated an unusually large supply of permits in order to meet future housing demand in markets with serious supply constraints. That bodes well for housing production in the near future," he said.

Publication date: 08/15/2005