Economy

US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016

US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016

Nationwide housing starts fell 6.8 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million units, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce Department.

Analysts had been expecting a slowdown following a surge in construction during the unseasonably warm winter months of January and February.

Single-family homebuilding, which account for the largest share of the residential housing market, fell 6.2% to an 821,000 unit pace last month, falling from a near 9-1/2-year high. "Homebuyers should rest assured that new home building will continue to relieve their supply constraint in the long-run".

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Building permits — an indicator of future home construction — rose 3.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.26 million. Starts for units in buildings with five units or more came in at 385,000.

February's starts were revised up to a 1.30 million-unit pace from the previously reported 1.29 million-rate. Compared to March 2016, building in the Northeast fell 15%, the most for any region.

"Today's numbers are aligned with our builder confidence metric, which contracted slightly this month but is on solid footing overall", said Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Kerrville, Texas. Total permits were up a healthy 10.4% in the first three months of 2017 from a year earlier, which bodes well for the construction sector in coming months. That trend could temper sales growth and weaken affordability, in part because the shortage of homes has pushed up prices. The rate rose 13.5% year over year. Reports from recent consumer sentiment surveys also suggest more people feel that now is a good time to buy a home. The monthly gain was in multifamily units, as single-family permits slipped 1% on the month.


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