Nationwide housing starts edged down 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000 units in July, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department today. The slight decline follows significant gains in housing production in June, and was attributable to a moderate drop-off on the single-family side while production of multi-family units continued upward, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Overall housing production held relatively steady in July, with construction of new multi-family projects showing greater strength due to higher demand for rental units,” says NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “Going forward, we expect housing production to show modest improvement through the end of this year, particularly in select markets that do not have large inventories of distressed homes and where economic stability is more apparent.”

Single-family housing starts declined 4.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 425,000 units in July, on par with their second-quarter average. Multi-family starts rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 179,000 units, their highest level since January.

Starts activity was mixed across the four regions in July, with the Northeast’s 34.7-percent gain countered by a 37.7-percent decline in the Midwest, a 5.6-percent gain reported in the South, and a 3.0-percent decline posted in the West.

Issuance of building permits fell 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 597,000 units in July. While single-family permits were virtually unchanged with a 0.5 percent gain to 404,000 units, multi-family permits registered a 10.2-percent decline to 193,000 units.

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