According to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department, total housing starts fell 0.3 percent in March 2019 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million units from a downwardly revised reading in February 2019.
The March reading of 1.14 million is the number of housing units builders would begin construction if they kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts fell 0.4 percent to 785,000 units. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, remained flat at 354,000.
"Despite signs of stabilization of confidence in the marketplace, housing affordability continues to be a concern as housing construction weakens into March," said Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
"Data in the early months of 2019 show single-family starts are off 5 percent from this time in 2018, with notable weakness in the Midwest and West," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Several factors are negatively affecting the housing market, including excessive regulations, a lack of buildable lots and ongoing labor shortages. Recent declines in mortgage rates should help support the market in future months however."
Regionally, combined single-family and multifamily starts year to date declined 14.2 percent in the Northeast, 10.9 percent in the Midwest and 27.1 percent in the West. Starts posted a 1.5 percent increase in the South.
Overall permits, which are often a harbinger of future housing production, edged 1.7 percent lower in March to 1.27 million units. Single-family permits fell 1.1 percent to an annualized pace of 808,000, while multifamily permits dropped 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 461,000.
Looking at regional permit data on a year to date basis, permits are down 3.7 percent in the Midwest, 0.4 percent in the South and 16.9 percent in in the West. The Northeast remained unchanged.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's newly released Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), U.S. mortgage credit availability decreased in December 2019.
The MCAI fell by 3.5 percent to 182.2 in December.
Based on research from Learnbonds.com indicates that U.S. mortgage debt is now the highest since the Great Depression in 2008. The outstanding US mortgage debt which has been growing steadily in recent years hit a record high of $15.8 trillion in Q3 2019.
Based on CoreLogic's latest Home Price Index for November 2019, U.S. home prices rose both year over year and month over month. Home prices increased nationally by 3.7% from November 2018. On a month-over-month basis, prices increased by 0.5% in November 2019.
The oldest Millennials, who will turn 40 in 2020, have lived through a turbulent decade of housing marked first by the initial recovery from the Great Recession, then the extraordinary home value growth of recent years.
According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales fell in November 2019, taking a small step back after October's gains. The Northeast and Midwest both reported growth last month, while the South and West saw sales decline.
Demand for design services in November 2019 increased at a modest pace for the second month in a row. During November, both the new project inquiries and design contracts scores were positive, posting scores of 60.9 and 52.9 respectively.
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