New housing starts rose 21 percent in January from a year ago, the Census Bureau said today, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000.

That’s up from a record low pace of 479,000 units per year seen in April, but still well off the 1 million to 2 million-a-year range that’s been the norm for five decades. During the last boom, housing starts peaked at 2.07 million in 2005.

Single-family home starts were up 36 percent from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 484,000 per year.

Single-family home starts, which typically exceed 1 million a year when the economy is not in a recession, hit an all-time high of 1.72 million in 2005 before plunging to 445,000 last year.

Analysts said builders may be putting up homes on "spec" to beat the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit, currently limited to homes under contract by April 30 and closing by June 30.

Building permits were also up 16.9 percent in January from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 621,000. Housing completions were down 15 percent from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 659,000.

For housing markets, home starts can be a double-edged sword. Severe cutbacks in new-home construction have helped reduce pressure on inventories in some markets, providing support for prices. But economists say new-home construction, and the jobs it creates, is often the primary driver pushing the economy out of a recession.

In their latest mortgage finance forecast, economists at the Mortgage Bankers Association project that housing starts will rebound from a record low of 554,000 in 2009 to 743,000 this year, climbing to 1.02 million in 2011 and 1.34 million in 2012.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription