Privately owned housing starts beat expectations in August, while single-family starts declined by nearly 3 percent, according to data issued Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Multifamily housing starts beat expectations in August, rising 3.9 percent from the revised July estimate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,615,000, likely buoyed by softening lumber prices, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new residential construction report. That figure was up 17.4 percent from August 2020.

At the same time, permits for U.S. housing units were up a sizable 6 percent from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,728,000. Those permits were also up 13.5 percent from the previous year.

“The backlog of homes authorized but not started has grown to record levels over the late spring and summer, and as builders are able to secure materials and labor it is not surprising to see starts begin to pick back up,” Kelly Mangold, a principal at the real estate consulting firm RCLCO, said in a statement emailed to Inman. “This backlog is a promising metric, and while some of the pipeline of units may be canceled, it is likely that a good share of the backlog will make it to market due to robust housing demand.”

After dropping unexpectedly in July however, single-family housing starts continued a downward trend in August, dropping by 2.8 percent from revised July figures to a rate of 1,076,000.

Nonetheless, single-family building permits made slight gains in August, careening upward 0.6 percent from July’s revised estimate to a rate of 1,054,000.

Housing completions made modest gains on the single-family side, which were up 2.8 percent from July’s revised rate to a rate of 971,000. Privately owned housing completions, however, were down 4.5 percent from the revised July estimate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,330,000, which was still up 9.4 percent from August 2020.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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