WASHINGTON - The downswing in the single-family housing market deepened in April while a bump up for the month in the volatile multifamily market lifted total housing starts 8.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.032 million units, according to figures released by the Commerce Department. Total starts were down 30.6 percent from a year earlier.

Single-family housing starts dropped 1.7 percent for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 692,000 units, the lowest monthly production rate since January 1991 and 42.2 percent below April 2007.

“It’s no surprise that the single-family housing market continues to deteriorate since our surveys of builder confidence and market expectations have been hovering in a historically low range for the past nine months,” said Sandy Dunn, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “Congress and the administration must act now to kick-start housing and lift the overall economy.”

“The demand for new homes still is quite weak, the overhang of vacant housing units on the market is at record proportions, consumer sentiment continues to fall, and the economy has been losing jobs since the end of last year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “The fundamentals point to further deterioration of single-family housing production over the balance of this year, and the condo component of the multifamily sector also is destined to lose more ground.”

Multifamily housing starts rose 36 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 340,000 units in April after dropping 35.1 percent to a 250,000-unit pace the month before. The pace of multifamily construction was 17.6 percent above April 2007.

Total building permits rose 4.9 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 978,000 units. Total permits were down 34.3 percent from a year earlier.

Single-family permit issuance rose 4 percent to a pace of 646,000 units for the month. The pace was marginally lower than the first quarter average of 647,000 this year and 40.1 percent below April 2007.

The rate of multifamily permit issuance was up 6.8 percent to 332,000 units for the month. The pace was 19.2 percent below a year earlier.

Regionally, starts of new homes and apartments were up in the Midwest, South, and West by 24.4 percent, 3.6 percent, and 18.5 percent, respectively. Housing starts were down in the Northeast by 12.7 percent. All four regions reported a pace of construction substantially lower than a year earlier.

Publication date:05/19/2008