Single-Family Starts at Highest Pace in More Than a Decade

November 20th, 2020 by Editor

Solid gains in single-family production have boosted overall housing starts, which increased 4.9% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million units. The numbers are on the recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, which further shows the pace of single-family starts was the best since the spring of 2007.

The October reading of 1.53 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if development kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts increased 6.4% to a 1.18 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, and are up 8.6% year-to-date. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, remained unchanged from the previous month at a 351,000 pace.

“As seen in the NAHB/Wells Fargo builder confidence index, single-family starts continue to grow off a historic rebound that began in April,” said Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder from Tampa, Fla. “Current demand is being supported by historically low interest rates and home buyer preferences shifting to the suburbs and exurbs.”

However, the numbers may or may not continue to climb.

“Single-family permits were approximately flat in October, which suggests housing starts will level off in the months ahead, although at post-Great Recession highs,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. “Builders cite a lack of lots and decreased availability of building materials as headwinds that will limit production.”

On a regional and year-to-date basis (January through October of 2020 compared to that same time frame a year ago), combined single-family and multifamily starts are 15.5% higher in the Midwest, 7.5% higher in the South, and 4.7% higher in the West but 6.4% lower in the Northeast. The gains for the Midwest are notable and being led by the shift to lower cost, lower density areas.

Overall permits came in at a 1.55 million unit annualized rate in October, remaining unchanged from the previous month. Single-family permits increased 0.6% to a 1.12 million unit rate. Multifamily permits decreased 1.6% to a 425,000 pace.

Looking at regional permit data on a year-to-date basis, permits are 5.6% higher in the Midwest, 5.5% higher in the South, 0.1% higher in the West and 3.9% lower in the Northeast.

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