Due largely to unusually severe weather across much of the nation, housing starts fell 16 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000 units in January, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, single-family permits, which are often a harbinger of future building activity, posted a modest 1.3 percent decline to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 602,000 units.
"Cold weather clearly put a chill on new home construction last month and this is also reflected in our latest builder confidence survey," said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders
(NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. "Further, builders continue to face other obstacles, including rising materials prices and a lack of buildable lots and labor."
"Though the decline in starts is largely weather related, it is worth noting that on the upside housing production for the fourth quarter was above 1 million for the first time since 2008 while single-family permits held relatively steady," said NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "The less weather sensitive permits data suggests that our forecast for solid growth in single-family housing production in 2014 remains on track, as pent-up housing demand is unleashed."
In January, single-family housing starts posted a 15.9 percent decline to 573,000 units while multifamily production fell 16.3 percent to 307,000 units.
Regionally, single-family starts activity rose 10.7 percent in the West and 2 percent in the Northeast, and fell 13.8 percent in the South and 60.3 percent in the Midwest.
Overall permit activity fell 5.4 percent to 937,000 units in January. The decline was due primarily to a pullback in buildings with five units or more, where permits fell 13 percent to 309,000 units.
Regionally, overall permit issuance was down 10.3 percent in the Northeast and 26 percent in the West, but rose 8.6 percent in the Midwest and 3.4 percent in the South.