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Housing Starts Regain Ground

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RISMEDIA, March 19, 2009-For the first time in eight months, nationwide housing starts turned upward this February, posting a 22.2% gain that was due primarily to a big bump on the often-volatile multifamily side, according to numbers released from the U.S. Commerce Department.

“While welcome news, this gain only reflects a modest rebound from January, which was the worst month in history for new-home production,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) chief economist David Crowe. “The majority of the gain was due to characteristic volatility on the multifamily side, while single-family housing starts were up just over one percent for the month.”

“Builders did pull a larger volume of single-family permits in February, suggesting a glimmer of hope for the prime home buying season, which is near at hand,” said NAHB chairman Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. “That said, we realize there’s a need to be extremely cautious in terms of new building activity going forward, because there’s still quite a lot of inventory out there that needs to be absorbed as foreclosures continue to flood the market in many areas.”

Total U.S. housing starts rose 22.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units in February. This gain reflected an 82.3% surge to a 226,000-unit pace on the multifamily side and a 1.1% gain to a 357,000-unit pace on the single-family side.

Regionally, the only area of the country to post a lower rate of total housing starts for February was the West, with a 24.6% decline. The Northeast posted the largest gain, of 88.6%, reflecting a rebound from a nearly equal decline in the previous month. Meanwhile, the Midwest posted a 58.5% gain following a deep plunge in January, and the South posted a 30.2% gain. January-February averages were well below the monthly averages for the final quarter of 2008 in all regions of the country.

Building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 3% overall to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 547,000 units in February. This reflected an 11% gain in single-family permits to 373,000 units and a 10.8% decline in multifamily permits to 174,000 units.

By region, building permits recorded a 27.6% gain in the Northeast, no change in the Midwest, a nearly 6% improvement in the South, and a 13.6% decline in the West in February.

For more information, visit http://www.nahb.org/.

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