A flurry of apartment construction last month pushed housing starts above 1 million for the first time since 2008, the National Association of Home Builders said.

Total housing starts increased 7 percent for the month, mostly on the strength of a 31.1 percent spike in multifamily housing. Single-family starts dropped 4.8 percent from the upwardly revised February figures.

"Today's report is a reflection of the solid demand that many areas are seeing for rental apartments as young people take that first step into the housing market, which is a very positive development," said Rick Judson, NAHB chairman and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors."

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe called the numbers “a mixed bag,” but they are still headed in the right direction.

"The three-month moving average for single-family starts remained unchanged at 628,000 units in March — which is right on pace with NAHB's forecast for a 25 percent gain in new-home production in 2013,” Crowe said.