New U.S. Commerce Department data showed December housing starts were at their highest level since June 2008. Gains were seen in both single-family and multifamily housing, and produced an overall housing starts increase of 12.1%, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000.
"Builders have become increasingly optimistic about conditions in local housing markets in recent months and this report underscores that the housing recovery is well on its way," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, FL. "With inventories of new homes at razor thin levels, builders are moving prudently to break ground on new construction ahead of the spring buying season to meet increasing demand."
December housing starts:
* single-family housing starts were up 8.1%, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 616,000 units
* multifamily production was up 23.1%, to 338,000 units
December combined single-family and multifamily starts were up in all regions of the United States.
* Northeast: up 21.4%
* Midwest: up 24.7%
* South: up 3.8%
* West: up 18.7%
Permit issuance in December - seen as an indication of future homebuilding activity - was steady at a rate of 903,000 units:
* single-family permits were up, for the fourth month, by 1.8%, to 578,000 units
* multifamily permits were down 2.1%, to 325,000 units
Permits by region:
* Northeast: permits were up 19%
* West: permits were up 6.6%
* South: permits were down 3.4%
* Midwest: were down 5.7%
"Overall, this report represents a solid ending to 2012 and a promising start to 2013," said NAHB senior economist Robert Denk. "Multifamily production is almost back to normal levels and while single-family starts still have a way to go, they are gaining momentum. This trend could be even stronger if not for persistently tight credit conditions for home buyers, flawed appraisal values and uncertainties regarding economic policy debates in Washington."
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