The rate of single-family housing starts rose for the fifth straight month in July but were down 37.7 percent compared to the same month last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of single-family building-permit authorizations rose for the fourth straight month in July. This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for typical seasonal fluctuations in construction activity.

The multifamily sector was hammered in July — the rate of building-permit authorizations for structures with five or more units plunged an estimated 26.3 percent compared to June and 73.2 percent compared to July 2008, while multifamily starts sank  an estimated 16.7 percent in July and 72.1 percent compared to the same month last year.

Total privately owned housing starts in July fell by 1 percent from June at a seasonally adjusted rate of 581,000 units, while single-family housing starts were up by 1.7 percent from June.

The Northeast region experienced an estimated 58.6 percent year-over-year drop in its July rate of housing starts.

The rate of total private building-permit authorizations fell 1.8 percent from June to July, while the single-family permits were up by 5.8 percent from the previous month at a seasonally adjusted rate of 458,000 units.

Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, a trade group for builders, said in a statement that the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers has been a boon for builders, though "it remains to be seen what happens after the tax credit expires (on Nov. 30), and the severe credit crunch that has curtailed many multifamily projects is looming over single-family builders as well."

Regionally, new housing starts slid in the West by 1.6 percent from the previous month and 31.9 percent from a year earlier. The South witnessed a drop of 1.4 percent from June and a year-over-year drop of 36.7 percent. Midwest starts were up 12.9 percent from June and down 25.5 percent year over year. And Northeast starts dropped 16.3 percent from June.

–Riya V. Anandwala


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