Housing starts crash

November 20, 2002

Pace of new construction takes biggest hit in almost 9 years


Inman News Features

U.S. housing starts plummeted 11.4 percent in October to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.6 million units, according to figures released by the Commerce Department.

The fall-out in new construction was the biggest monthly drop since January 1994.

The National Association of Home Builders chalked up the dramatic decline to builders simply "taking a breather" from the rapid pace of activity in September and that wet weather conditions caused many delays in project starts.

"It would be a big mistake to equate today's report with some kind of bubble effect," said NAHB President Gary Garczynski, who admitted the drop-off was more than expected.

Single-family starts fell 7 percent in October to a 1.35 million-unit pace, while multifamily starts dropped by more than 29 percent to a 253,000-unit rate, according to NAHB citing the Commerce Department.

Newly issued permits were up 1.7 percent to a 1.76 million-unit rate in October on a 2 percent gain in the single-family sector and 1 percent rise on the multifamily side.

Garczynski noted that the backlog of unused permits rose in October, apparently due to builders delaying the start of new projects because of unusually wet weather conditions. "We wouldn't be surprised to see a bump in starts with a return to normal weather patterns," he said.

Copyright: Inman News Service