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Sept. Single-Family Starts Flat – but Up So Far This Year

Starts dropped 1.6% overall, but single-family changed little with multifamily down 5%. Year-to-date, however, single-family starts are up 20.5% compared to last year.

WASHINGTON – Single-family housing starts held steady in September as strong demand helped to offset ongoing supply chain disruptions. However, multifamily production declined last month, pushing overall housing starts in September down 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.56 million, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The monthly housing-starts number is based on yearly sales, and calculated by assuming that September’s number is extended for a full year.

Within September’s overall number, single-family starts were essentially unchanged from the previous month at a 1.08 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. However, that number is also up 20.5% year-to-date. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, decreased 5.0% to 475,000.

“Single-family construction continued along recent, more sustainable trends in September,” says Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom homebuilder from Tampa. “Lumber prices have moved off recent lows, but the cost and availability of many building materials continues to be a challenge for a market that still lacks inventory.”

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz says builder confidence improved in the association’s October survey, which “confirms stabilization of home construction at current levels. … The number of single-family units in the construction pipeline is 712,000, almost 31% higher than a year ago as more inventory is headed to market. Multifamily construction has expanded as well, with almost a 6% year-over-year gain for apartments currently under construction.”

On a regional and year-to-date basis (January through September of 2021 compared to that same timeframe a year ago), combined single-family and multifamily starts are 28.9% higher in the Northeast, 12.1% higher in the Midwest, 18.6% higher in the South and 22.6% higher in the West.

Overall permits decreased 7.7% to a 1.59 million-unit annualized rate in September. Single-family permits decreased 0.9% to a 1.04 million-unit rate, and multifamily permits decreased 18.3% to a 548,000 pace.

Looking at regional permit data on a year-to-date basis, permits are 19.6% higher in the Northeast, 19.9% higher in the Midwest, 22.9% higher in the South and 25.0% higher in the West.

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