Total housing starts rose 5.7% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.24 million units from an upwardly revised reading in March, according to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department.
The April reading of 1.24 million is the number of housing units builders would begin if they kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts increased 6.2% to 854,000 units. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, increased 4.7% to a 381,000 pace.
"Builders remain cautious due to affordability concerns,” said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde, a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn. "But as our builder confidence survey shows, their expectations indicate consumers will respond to lower interest rates moving forward and the housing market will continue on a slow, steady climb."
"Though an overall encouraging report for the month of April, the soft permit numbers for single-family housing indicate concerns about housing affordability and construction costs," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Builders continue to focus on managing home construction costs as they try to meet growing housing demand. NAHB analysis of first quarter permit data show growth in more affordable exurban locations."
Regionally, combined single-family and multifamily starts in April rose 84.6% in the Northeast and 42% in the Midwest. Starts declined 5.7% in the South and 5.5% in the West.
Overall permits, which are a harbinger of future housing production, edged up 0.6% to a 1.3 million unit annualized rate in April. Single-family permits fell 4.2% to 782,00, the lowest level since October 2016. Multifamily permits increased 8.9% to 514,000.
Looking at regional permit data, permits rose 2.2% in the Midwest and 5.3% in the West. Permits fell 4% in the Northeast and 1.2% in the South.