Total housing starts in the United States remained virtually unchanged in January although single-family builders continued to pull in the reins on new-home production, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Starts rose by 0.8% for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.01 million units, with single-family production down 5.2% to a rate of 743,000 units and multifamily production - which tends to display significant month-to-month volatility - up 22.3% to a 269,000-unit rate that was still well below the previous quarterly average.
Single-family housing starts, at 743,000 units, declined for a tenth consecutive month to their lowest rate since January of 1991. Single-family permit issuance was also at its lowest since January of 1991, at 673,000 units.
Overall permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, declined 3% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million units. This was the lowest overall permit issuance since November of 1991. Single-family permits were down 4.1% , while multifamily permits were virtually unchanged for the month at 375,000 units.
Regionally, overall housing starts were mixed in January, with the two largest housing markets - the South and West - posting declines of 2.9% and 6.2% , respectively, and the two others - the Northeast and Midwest - each partially offsetting previous big declines in their territories with gains of 18.9% and 12%, respectively.