Winter Blues Still a Drag on Homebuilding

April 18, 2018

Single-family housing starts underperformed in March, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Construction on new single-family homes dropped 3.7 percent to 867,000 units. Builders blamed bad weather in many regions of the country. 

“The modest decline in single-family starts in March is still in line with our solid builder confidence readings and is largely attributable to lingering winter weather that is causing production delays in certain areas of the country,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. “With ongoing job creation, wage increases and rising household formations, we can expect continued, gradual strengthening of the housing market in the coming months.” 

Overall, housing starts did attain a 1.9 percent increase last month, due entirely to a surge in multifamily construction. Multifamily production jumped 14.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 452,000 units, its highest reading since December 2016, the Commerce Department reports. 

Combined single- and multifamily housing starts rose 22.4 percent in the Midwest and were up 0.8 percent in the Northeast in March. Combined starts, however, dropped 1.5 percent in the West and by 0.6 percent in the South. 

Multifamily construction continued to buoy housing starts in permits too. Multifamily permits jumped 19 percent in March to 514,000 while single-family permits dropped 5.5 percent month-over-month to 840,000. Permits were up by the highest amount in the Midwest, up 9 percent, and up by 3 percent in the West and by 2.1 percent in the South. Permits decreased 5.5 percent in the Northeast.

"Builders are optimistic about future demand for housing and are ramping up production to meet this demand," says NAHB Chairman Randy Noel. "Single-family starts dropped slightly this month, but single-family permits [in the] year to date are up 5 percent from their level over this same period in 2017."

Source: National Association of Home Builders