Multifamily Sector Shows 22 Percent Gain in Building Starts in January; Overall, Housing Declines

Washington, D.C.–U.S. housing starts stayed at their lowest level since 1991 last month, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday.Housing starts increased by 0.8 percent from December, and building permits–which forecast future construction–dropped 3 percent, Bloomberg reports.Single-family home starts fell 5.2 percent to the lowest rate since January 1991. However, the multifamily home sector was last month’s biggest winner: Starts grew 22 percent from January to an annual rate of 269,000, rebounding from December’s 39 percent plunge.In 2007, construction started on 1.355 million housing units–the least amount in 14 years and a 25 percent drop from 2006.December new home sales declined 57 percent from their high in July 2005; existing home sales dropped 32 percent from their September 2005 high.The situation is not likely to improve, given that foreclosures–which are adding more homes to the market–rose 97 percent in December from 2006. The housing decline is decreasing the need for appliances and construction materials and increasing unemployment rates for the building sector, according to Bloomberg.The economy is also experiencing pressure from various basic costs. Consumer prices increased 0.3 percent–more than expected–in January, according to a separate report from the Labor Department. Cost of living rose 0.4 percent.