Housing Starts Surged 4.4 Percent in December

Housing StartsStatistics released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show that housing starts were up in the last month of 2014, increasing by about 4.4 percent compared to the previous month’s figure.

The joint report shows housing starts for December 2014 at an annualized rate of 1.089 million, which represented a 4.4 percent uptick from November’s revised estimate of 1.043 million units, and a 5.3 percent year-over-year increase over December 2013’s figure of about 1.034 million starts. Single-family housing starts, which were at an annualized figure of about 679,000 units in November, increased by 7.2 percent to 728,000 units in December. However, multifamily starts were down 4.2 percent, slipping from 354,000 annualized units in November to 339,000 units in December.

This is interesting, as for most of 2014, multifamily housing starts were increasing faster than single-family starts. As for 2014’s year-end figures, the Census Bureau and the HUD revealed that there were about 1.006 million housing starts, up 8.8 percent from the estimated 924,000 units in 2013.

Building permits, with seasonality taken into account, were at about 1.032 million annualized in December 2014, an increase of about 1.9 percent on a month-over-month basis. In November 2014, the seasonally-adjusted, annualized figure was 1.052 million, while December 2013’s estimate was at 1.022 million. Single-family authorizations also ticked up, moving up by 4.5 percent from a revised figure of 638,000 in November to 667,000 in December.

Authorizations for buildings with at least five units were at about 338,000 in December, a decrease of 12.4 percent from November’s estimate of 386,000. All in all, about 1.033 million housing units had building permits in 2014, up about 4.2 percent from the 990,800 units for calendar year 2013.

Talking about completed homes, approximately 927,000 new homes (annualized) were completed last month, up 6.3 percent from November’s revised figure of 872,000 units, and up 19.6 percent from December 2013’s year-prior annualized rate of about 775,000 units. Approximately 70 percent of these homes – 667,000 units – were single-family homes, while 254,000 of these properties were multifamily units. For 2014, about 883,000 housing units were completed, up 15.5 percent from 2013’s total of 764,400 units.

The National Association of Home Builders was optimistic and upbeat when talking about the government’s latest housing start statistics, with chairman Kevin Kelly saying that the results were still “in line with our recent surveys.” Separately, the NAHB reported Tuesday that builder confidence for new single-family homes had gone as low as 57 on the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, but “gradual improvement is occurring” in many leading U.S. markets.

Aside from Kelly, another NAHB official reacted favorably to the reports, offering a positive outlook for calendar 2015. “With overall starts ending the year above 1 million units for the first time since 2007, we expect this momentum to carry forward in 2015,” read the statement prepared by NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “A growing labor market and strengthening economy will spur steady growth in single-family housing production in the year ahead.”