Housing starts dip in August, brought down by multifamily production

housing starts multifamily
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WASHINGTON — Single-family housing starts showed growth in August but overall housing production fell 5.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million units due to a double-digit percentage decline in multifamily production, according to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department. The National Association of Home Builders reports that the pace of single-family starts in August was the highest production rate since February.

The August reading of 1.42 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if they kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts increased 4.1% to a 1.02 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, decreased 22.7% to a 395,000 pace.

“Consistent with surging builder confidence, single-family starts rose in August to meet rising buyer traffic,” said Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder from Tampa, Fla. “Builders continue to face concerns in terms of rising lumber prices and supply chain shortages of other building materials.”

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“Total housing starts were down in August on a decline for multifamily construction, with multifamily 5+ unit permits now down 8.3% on a year-to-date basis,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “But low interest rates and solid demand are spurring single-family construction growth, which makes up the bulk of the housing market. Single-family permits continue to rise as well, and are now up almost 7% on a year-to-date basis.”

On a regional and year-to-date basis (January through August of 2020 compared to that same time frame a year ago), combined single-family and multifamily starts are 13.6% higher in the Midwest, 5.4% higher in the South, 3.8% higher in the West and 4.5% lower in the Northeast.

Overall permits decreased 0.9% to a 1.47 million unit annualized rate in August. Single-family permits increased 6.0% to a 1.04 million unit rate. Multifamily permits decreased 14.2% to a 434,000 pace.

Builder confidence, however, reached an all-time high in September, even as increased lumber costs weighed on the industry.

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