Total April housing starts were up 5.8% compared to March at a seasonally adjusted rate of 672,000 and up 40.9% compared with April 2009’s rate of 477,000, according to the Commerce Department’s monthly residential construction report.
However, the overall housing start rate is deceiving because starts of multifamily projects with five or more units actually fell 23.6% in April compared with March. Single-family starts were up 10.2% month over month, to a seasonally adjusted level of 593,000. On an annual basis, April's single-family starts were up 53.6% and multifamily starts for projects of five or more units were down 15%.
Starts in the Northeast and Midwest carried the bulk of the sequential monthly increase, up 23.9% and 16.7%, respectively. The South also saw a 7% boost; however, starts were down 13.3% in the West.
Compared with April 2009, all of the regions saw increases: the Northeast was up 66%; the Midwest, 25%; the South, 59.6%; and the West, 3.5%, all on a year-over-year-basis. For all regions except the Northeast, multifamily starts lagged behind single-family start activity.
The effect of the expiring home buyer tax credit can be seen in the numbers of building permits issued and housing completions as builders pushed to complete homes while at the same time slacking off on permits issued between March and April.
Housing completions in April were up 19.2% at a seasonally adjusted rate of 769,000, which came in higher than the March estimate of 645,000 but 8.7% below the revised April 2009 rate of 842,000.
In terms of future construction, total building permits hit a seasonally adjusted level of 606,000 units, which is 11.5% lower than the previous month. On an annual basis, April's overall building permits were 15.9% above the same month one year ago.
Single-family permits slipped 10.7% in April on a monthly basis to a 404,000-unit pace. That stands 22.5% above April 2009.
Regionally, total permit activity was flat in the Midwest and down by 7.4% in the Northeast, 14.3% in the South, and 16% in the West. Year over year, permits were up across the regions by 8.6% in the Northeast, 37.6% in the Midwest, 12.1% in the South, and 12% in the West.