WASHINGTON — The downswing in the single-family housing market deepened in April while a bump up for the month in the extremely volatile multifamily market lifted total housing starts 8.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.032 million units, according to figures released May 16 by the Commerce Department. Total starts were down 30.6% from a year earlier.

Single-family housing starts dropped 1.7% for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 692,000 units, the lowest monthly production rate since January 1991 and 42.2% below April 2007.

“It’s no surprise that the single-family housing market continues to deteriorate since our surveys of builder confidence and market expectations have been hovering in a historically low range for the past nine months,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) President Sandy Dunn, a homebuilder from Point Pleasant, WV. “Congress and the Administration must act now to kick-start housing and lift the overall economy.”

“The demand for new homes still is quite weak, the overhang of vacant housing units on the market is at record proportions, consumer sentiment continues to fall and the economy has been losing jobs since the end of last year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “The fundamentals point to further deterioration of single-family housing production over the balance of this year, and the condo component of the multifamily sector also is destined to lose more ground.”

Multifamily housing starts rose 36.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 340,000 units in April after dropping 35.1% to a 250,000-unit pace the month before. The pace of multifamily construction was 17.6% above April 2007.

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