Housing starts and permits proved softer-than-expected in January, down 3.8 percent to an annualized rate of 1.099 million for starts with permits down 0.2 percent to 1.202 million. Starts show roughly equal weakness between single-family homes, down 3.9 percent to a 731,000 rate, and multi-family homes, down 3.7 percent to 368,000.
Permits for single-family homes fell 1.6 percent to 720,000 while multi-family permits, in the strongest reading of the report, rose 2.1 percent to 482,000.
Multi-family homes remain the center of strength for the housing sector with year-on-year permits up 19.9 percent, surpassing a very solid 9.6 percent gain for single-family homes. Starts are lagging far behind, at a year-on-year plus 1.8 percent overall and reflecting supply constraints in the construction sector, including for labor, as well as January’s heavy weather that hit the East Coast at mid-month.
The housing sector isn’t on fire but trends in permits do point to strength.