The number of new single-family houses under construction in February continued to drop, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.

The report said the number of single-family housing starts dropped 6.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 707,000.

Multifamily housing fared better, growing 14.4 percent to 358,000 units. That helped limit the overall drop in housing starts to 0.6 percent below January’s figures. A little over a million residential units were under construction at the end of February.

Officials with the National Association of Home Builders called on Congress and the president to help shore up the struggling residential construction industry.

“Builders continue to scale back production of single-family homes in an effort to contain inventories amidst ongoing problems in the mortgage finance arena and other challenges that are keeping many potential buyers on the fence,” said NAHB President Sandy Dunn, a home builder in Point Pleasant, W.Va. “We're doing what we can to restore balance to the supply-demand equation, but we need the Federal Reserve, Congress and the administration to take immediate action on several fronts if there's any hope of rebuilding consumer confidence and jump-starting the economy.”

NAHB chief economist David Seiders said many would-be buyers cannot afford a house under current lending conditions.

“Our latest surveys of single-family builders reveal that many prospective buyers are looking into a home purchase at this time, but that they are unwilling or unable to make their move with conditions in the overall economy and financing arena what they are,” Seiders said.

He said Congress should pass more legislation aimed at helping the housing market.