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US single-family starts post double-digit percentage gain in 2021


January 19, 2022
By National Association of Home Builders

While single-family starts dipped in December due to ongoing supply-side challenges, they still managed to post double-digit gains in 2021. Overall housing starts increased 1.4 per cent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.70 million units, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The December reading of 1.70 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 2.3 per cent to a 1.17 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, increased 10.6 per cent to a 530,000 pace.

Total housing starts for 2021 were 1.60 million, a 15.6 per cent gain over the 1.38 million total from 2020. Single-family starts in 2021 totalled 1.12 million, up 13.4 per cent from the previous year. Multifamily starts (5+) in 2021 were up 22.1 per cent compared to the previous year.

“The price and availability of building materials, and the supply chain in general, remains the most pressing, immediate challenge for builders as they seek to add housing supply,” said Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder from Tampa, Fla. “Policymakers must focus on easing production bottlenecks and eliminating tariffs on Canadian lumber to help address the issues builders are currently facing.”

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“The double-digit gain for single-family starts in 2021 was a continuation of the rebound and expansion of home building that took place in the wake of the pandemic,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. “However, as mortgage interest rates are rising and construction costs increase, affordability headwinds are steepening. NAHB’s outlook for 2022 calls for relatively flat conditions for single-family construction, with additional gains for multifamily and remodelling.”

On a regional and year-to-date basis (January through December of 2021 compared to that same time frame a year ago), combined single-family and multifamily starts are 22.2 per cent higher in the Northeast, 10.9 per cent higher in the Midwest, 15.3 per cent higher in the South and 16.9 per cent higher in the West.

Overall permits increased 9.1 per cent to a 1.87 million unit annualized rate in December. Single-family permits increased 2.0 per cent to a 1.13 million unit rate. Multifamily permits increased 21.9 per cent to a 745,000 pace.

Looking at regional permit data on a year-to-date basis, permits are 22.4 per cent higher in the Northeast, 14.4 per cent higher in the Midwest, 16.3  per cent higher in the South and 19 per cent higher in the West.

Single-family homes permitted but not authorized are now declining – down to 144,000 compared to 154,000 in October. However, they are still up 38.5 per cent compared to a year ago.