Single-Family Housing Starts Down 17%

Another day, another clear sign that the housing market is taking a beating.

Single‐family housing starts in March were at a rate of 856,000 – 17.5 percent below the revised February figure of 1,037,000, according to a monthly report released Thursday the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Housing has been deemed an essential business in most of the nation, and in the few states where the governors have not acted, we urge them to deem construction as essential,” said Dean Mon, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “Housing can help lead an eventual rebound, as it has done in previous recessions.”

The report also found:

  • Total housing starts decreased 22.3 percent in March.
  • Single‐family housing completions in March were 15 percent below the revised February rate of 1,015,000. 
  • Single‐family authorizations in March were 12 percent below the revised February figure of 1,005,000. 

The poor news comes amid stay-at-home orders across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, as people are buying less and applying for fewer mortgages.

Homebuilder confidence has plummeted along with the housing starts.

The National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index – which measures builder confidence – released Wednesday showed a 42-point drop in April, the largest single monthly change in the history of the index. The index sits at 30, the lowest point since June 2012 and the first time it has been in negative territory (below 50) since June 2014.

“We expect further declines in housing starts in April, due to the unprecedented decline in builder confidence in our latest member survey,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said. “It is worth noting that there are currently 534,000 single-family homes currently under construction and 684,000 apartments. Approximately 90 percent of these single-family units are located in states where home building is deemed as an ‘essential service,’ while 80 percent of apartments are located in such states.”