New, private housing starts in February remained largely flat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000, an estimated 0.2 percent above last year’s February rate of 574,000, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This follows an estimated 21 percent year-over-year jump in January (see story).

Starts in February dropped an estimated 5.9 percent from January’s upwardly revised estimate of 611,000.

The vast majority (499,000) of housing starts in February were single-family units, up an estimated 39.8 percent year-over-year and down about 0.6 percent month-to-month. About 10 percent, or 58,000 of the units, were in buildings with five or more units.

Regionally, every region but the South saw a year-over-year increase in housing starts. The West saw the biggest rise, 21.2 percent, to 137,000 units, or 24 percent of total starts. The region also saw a 7.9 percent month-to-month decrease.

The Midwest saw the second-largest year-over-year increase, 11.8 percent, to 104,000 units, or 18 percent of total starts. The region saw the biggest month-to-month increase, 10.6 percent.

The Northeast’s statistics were a bit mixed. The region saw a 6.5 percent year-over-year increase, to 66,000 units, or 14 percent of total starts. It also saw a 9.6 percent month-to-month decrease, however.

The South fared worst of all, in terms of housing start changes, in February. The region saw a 12.4 percent year-over-year drop and a 15.5 percent month-to-month drop. It contributed the most to the nation’s housing start figures as it made up about 53 percent of total starts last month, 268,000 units.

Building permits for privately owned housing units were up an estimated 11.3 percent year-over-year, to a seasonally adjusted 612,000 from 550,000 in February 2009. Authorized units dipped about 1.6 percent from 622,000 in January.

In their latest mortgage finance forecast, the Mortgage Bankers Association downwardly revised their housing start estimate for 2010 to 694,000 units. That’s a 20 percent increase from 2009’s record low of 553,000, though less than last month’s estimate of 743,000 units for 2010. The association also downwardly revised its projection for 2011 (to 975,000 instead of 1.02 million), but kept its estimate of 1.34 million units in 2012.


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