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U.S. single-family production continues to sag, multifamily permits weakening: NAHB

December 20, 2022  By National Association of Home Builders

Single-family housing starts continued to fall in November in the U.S., with the pace of construction down 32 per cent since February when mortgage rates began to rise. The housing market continues to weaken because stubbornly high construction costs, elevated interest rates and flagging demand are harming housing affordability. And with the count of multifamily units under construction reaching a near 50-year high, multifamily permit growth is weakening.

Overall housing starts decreased 0.5 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.43 million units in November, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The November reading of 1.43 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if development kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts decreased 4.1 per cent to an 828,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate. Year-to-date, single-family starts are down 9.4 per cent. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, increased 4.9 per cent to an annualized 599,000 pace.

“It’s no surprise that single-family starts are running at their lowest level since May 2020, given that builder sentiment has dropped for 12 consecutive months as builders remain fixated on rising building material costs and supply chain bottlenecks, with electrical transformers in particular being in short supply,” said Jerry Konter, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Savannah, Ga.


“One important characteristic of the single-family housing market is that there have been more single-family homes that completed construction than have been started over the past four months,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. “The most recent data for November shows there were 25,500 more single-family homes completed than started, thus pushing down the number of new homes under construction.”

On a regional and year-to-date basis, combined single-family and multifamily starts are 1.3 per cent higher in the Northeast, 0.8 per cent higher in the Midwest, 0.6 per cent higher in the South and 7.0 per cent lower in the West.

Overall permits decreased 11.2 per cent to a 1.34 million unit annualized rate in November. Single-family permits decreased 7.1 per cent to a 781,000 unit rate. Multifamily permits decreased 16.4 per cent to an annualized 561,000 pace, the lowest reading for apartment permits since September 2021.

Looking at regional permit data on a year-to-date basis, permits are 5.6 per cent lower in the Northeast, 0.5 per cent lower in the Midwest, 0.6 per cent lower in the South and 6.5 per cent lower in the West.

The number of multifamily units under construction for November is 932,000; this is the highest number since December 1973. The number of single-family units under construction has fallen for six consecutive months, declining to 777,000 homes in November.

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