WASHINGTON -- National housing starts edged up 0.8% in March as the Midwest region rebounded from a sharp decline in February and posted a 44.5% increase for the month, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported April 17. The pace of housing starts for March was a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.518 million units, 23.0% below a year earlier.


Construction of new single-family homes, boosted by a 35.9% surge in the Midwest, was up 2.0% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.218 million units. This was 24.6% below a year earlier. Multi-family housing construction decreased 3.8% for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 units and was down 16.0% from a year earlier.


“Builders, overall, have been systematically cutting back on new building activity for more than a year now,” said Brian Catalde, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), a Washington-based trade association. “This slowdown is enabling them to reduce their inventory and better position themselves for the balance of the year, especially when faced with uncertainties over the impact of the subprime-related tightening of mortgage lending standards on home sales.”


“Nationally, housing starts for the first quarter of this year were down by 5.5% from the final quarter of 2006 and nearly 30% below the first quarter of last year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “NAHB’s forecast shows another modest decline in the second quarter, followed by a gradual recovery beginning around mid-year. We now expect total housing starts for 2007 to be down by 20% from last year.”


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