WASHINGTON - The pace of housing starts slowed in September, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) cited unusually wet weather conditions across much of the country for the decline.

The government reported that housing starts dropped 6 percent from the best pace of the year to a still-solid rate of 1.9 million units on a seasonally adjusted annual basis in September. Meanwhile, issuance of new permits, which can be an indication of future building activity, rose 1.8 percent to an over 2 million-unit rate, and the number of permits that have been issued but not yet used rose to the highest level since the 1970s.

"Builders would have started more homes last month, but just took a rain-check in a lot of cases," said Bobby Rayburn, president of the NAHB. "In fact, given all the weather-related issues in September, today's report is pretty encouraging. We're in good shape heading into the fourth quarter."

The 6 percent drop in nationwide housing starts was largely attributable to a 27 percent decline in the storm-weary Northeast, where lingering precipitation saturated many building sites. Starts also declined 4.6 percent in the Midwest, 8 percent in the West, and 1 percent in the South - a region that includes hurricane-battered Florida but also other less-affected states. On the single-family side, starts fell 8.2 percent, but on the multifamily side they rose 4.7 percent.

Meanwhile, building permits for single-family homes held firm at the previous month's level, and permits for multifamily units gained 8.2 percent. Regionally, every part of the country reported gains in permits except the West, which had a 1.3 percent decline.

Publication date: 10/18/2004