According to a new report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department, total U.S. housing starts rose 5.7 percent in April 2019 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.24 million units from an upwardly revised reading in March 2019.
The April reading of 1.24 million is the number of housing units builders would begin if they kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts increased 6.2 percent to 854,000 units. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, increased 4.7 percent to a 381,000 pace.
"Builders remain cautious due to affordability concerns," said Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn. "But as our builder confidence survey shows, their expectations indicate consumers will respond to lower interest rates moving forward and the housing market will continue on a slow, steady climb."
"Though an overall encouraging report for the month of April, the soft permit numbers for single-family housing indicate concerns about housing affordability and construction costs," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Builders continue to focus on managing home construction costs as they try to meet growing housing demand. NAHB analysis of first quarter permit data show growth in more affordable exurban locations."
Regionally, combined single-family and multifamily starts in April rose 84.6 percent in the Northeast and 42 percent in the Midwest. Starts declined 5.7 percent in the South and 5.5 percent in the West
Overall permits, which are a harbinger of future housing production, edged up 0.6 percent to a 1.3 million unit annualized rate in April. Single-family permits fell 4.2 percent to 782,00, the lowest level since October 2016. Multifamily permits increased 8.9 percent to 514,000.
Looking at regional permit data, permits rose 2.2 percent in the Midwest and 5.3 percent in the West. Permits fell 4 percent in the Northeast and 1.2 percent in the South.