Although building permits and housing starts increased between March and April they were still significantly lower than a year ago, according to a government report released today.

The report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in April hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 978,000, up 4.9 percent from March’s rate of 932,000. However, this is 34.3 percent below the April 2007 estimate of 1.49 million.

The seasonally adjusted rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in construction activity.

Single-family authorizations, in particular, increased 4 percent between March and April, rising from a rate of 621,000 to a rate of 646,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more recorded a rate of 294,000 in April, down from 350,000 in April 2007.

The report found that privately owned housing starts hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million last month, an increase of 8.2 percent from the March estimate of 954,000. Compared to a year ago, the rate was down 30.6 percent from 1.48 million starts.

April starts for single-family units dipped to a rate of 692,000, off 1.7 percent from 704,000 in March, while the rate for units in buildings with five units or more climbed from 253,000 to 326,000 during the period.

As for housing completions, the seasonally adjusted rate on privately owned projects dropped 16 percent between March and April, falling from 1.19 million to 1 million. A year ago these completions were 34.9 percent higher at a rate of 1.53 million.

April’s housing completions in the single-family sector fell to a rate of 792,000, down 13 percent from 910,000 reported in March, while completions for units in buildings with five units or more sank from 226,000 to 181,000.


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