WASHINGTON — Nationwide housing starts turned upward for the first time in eight months this February, posting a 22.2% gain that was due primarily to a big bump on the often-volatile multifamily side, according to numbers released Mar. 17 from the U.S. Commerce Department.
 
“While welcome news, this gain only reflects a modest rebound from January, which was the worst month in history for new-home production,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist David Crowe. “The majority of the gain was due to characteristic volatility on the multifamily side, while single-family housing starts were up just over 1% for the month.”
 
“Builders did pull a larger volume of single-family permits in February, suggesting a glimmer of hope for the prime home buying season, which is near at hand,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a homebuilder from Tulsa, OK. “That said, we realize there’s a need to be extremely cautious in terms of new building activity going forward, because there’s still quite a lot of inventory out there that needs to be absorbed as foreclosures continue to flood the market in many areas.”
 
Total U.S. housing starts rose 22.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units in February. This gain reflected an 82.3% surge to a 226,000-unit pace on the multifamily side and a 1.1% gain to a 357,000-unit pace on the single-family side.
 
Building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 3% overall to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 547,000 units in February. This reflected an 11% gain in single-family permits to 373,000 units and a 10.8% decline in multifamily permits to 174,000 units.
 
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