Housing Starts Cool Off in January

February 17, 2017

Overall housing production declined in January after an unusually robust reading in the multifamily sector in December, but economists were unfazed. "As we move forward in 2017, we can expect the multifamily sector to continue to stabilize and single-family production to move forward at a gradual but consistent pace," says Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

Housing starts dropped 2.6 percent on a month-over-month basis in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.246 million units, primarily due to a 10.2 percent plunge in the multifamily sector, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Single-family starts, on the other hand, rose 1.9 percent month-over-month to 823,000 units.

"A settling of housing production is in line with what we are hearing from builders, that they are largely optimistic about current market conditions but still face supply-side headwinds and regulatory hurdles," says Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

Combined single- and multifamily housing production was on the rise in the Northeast and South in January. In the Northeast, housing production surged 55.4 percent last month and by 20 percent in the South. On the other hand, starts dropped by 41.3 percent in the West and by 17.9 percent in the Midwest, the Commerce Department reported.

Housing production is likely to pick up in the coming months. Issuance of construction permits—a gauge of future construction activity—increased 4.6 percent in January to 1.285 million units. But the bulk of that increase was due to a nearly 20 percent increase in multifamily permits to 477,000 units, the Commerce Department reported. Single-family permits, meanwhile, dropped 2.7 percent in January to 808,000 units.

The Northeast likely will continue to see some of the biggest increases in housing production. Regionally, housing permits increased by the highest amount in the Northeast, rising 29.6 percent in January, followed by a 9.9 percent gain in the South, and a 5.3 percent increase in the Midwest. The West was the only major region to see a decline, dropping 13.2 percent in January.

Source: National Association of Home Builders