Builders Continue to Reduce New Housing Production in December
|January 18, 2008|
Single-family housing starts declined 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 794,000 units in December as home builders continued to ratchet down production in an effort to reduce inventories of new homes on the market, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Meanwhile, a sharp reduction in the volatile multifamily sector contributed to an overall 14.2 percent decline in nationwide housing starts for the month to a one million-unit rate, the lowest since May of 1991. “Today’s numbers for single-family housing starts are right on the money in terms of what we’ve been forecasting and what our members have told us in recent surveys,” said Brian Catalde, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from El Segundo, Calif. “Builders are acting appropriately to manage the number of units coming on the market and help restore better balance to the supply-demand equation.” “The 14.2 percent decline in overall housing starts for the month of December was due primarily to a 40 percent drop-off in the multifamily sector, which tends to display significant month-to-month volatility,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “On a quarterly basis, multifamily production actually has held up relatively well since the peak in the early part of 2006.” Multifamily housing starts declined 40.3 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 212,000. However, average multifamily starts for the final quarter of 2007 held at 321,000 units, above the averages for each of the previous three quarters. Overall permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, declined 8.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million units in December. Single-family permits declined 10.1 percent to a 692,000-unit rate while multifamily permits were down 4.1 percent to 376,000 units. “Builders pulled fewer new permits and continued to work down their inventories of unused permits toward the end of last year,” Seiders noted. “This is all with an eye to repositioning themselves for later this year, when market conditions should warrant an increase in building activity. NAHB’s projected recovery process is contingent upon aggressive monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve as well as key legislative advances in the areas of FHA reform and GSE oversight reform. A fiscal stimulus package also is warranted to help keep the economy on track in 2008.” Regionally, combined single- and multifamily housing starts were down by double digits in the Northeast (down 25.8 percent), Midwest (down 30.8 percent) and West (down 19.6 percent) for the month. The South faired the best, with only a 3.3 percent reduction in overall housing starts. Meanwhile, housing permits were down, by lesser margins, in three out of four regions in December. The Midwest posted a 10.6 percent decline, the South posted a 7.8 percent decline, and the West posted an 11.6 percent decline in overall permits for the month, while the Northeast registered a 1.6 percent increase. On an annual basis, year-end figures from the Commerce Department indicate that overall housing starts declined 24.8 percent in 2007 to 1.35 million units. Single-family starts were down 28.7 percent for the year to 1.05 million units, while multifamily starts were off by 8.4 percent to 308,000 units. Overall permit issuance for new homes and apartments declined 25.2 percent in 2007 to 1.38 million units, with a 29.4 percent decline on the single-family side to 973,000 units and a 12.5 percent decline on the multifamily side to 403,000 units.
Source: National Association of Home Builders