Housing Starts: Volatile MultiFamily Masks Slight Improvement in Trend

October 17, 2019
Bottom Line: Housing starts were sharply lower than expected in September after strong gains in August. Most of the volatility was in the multifamily sector. Single-family starts, typically much less volatile, rose just slightly. Starts for both sectors were revised even higher for August. Overall, the trend is still showing signs of modest improvement after being flat to down since late last year. The three-month average is above the six-month average, which is above the 12-month average. Finally, building permits were lower, but also led by multifamily as single-family permits were higher and even showing an acceleration in trend. Housing Starts FELL by 9.4% in September to 1256k, compared with market expectations for a decline to 1320k. Meanwhile, the prior month was revised modestly higher from 1,364k to 1,386k. Housing starts are now 1.6% ABOVE their year ago level. However, they are still a sharp 44.7% BELOW their January 2006 peak. Single Family Housing Starts ROSE by 0.3% to 918k. Single family housing starts are 4.3% ABOVE their year ago level but still 49.6% BELOW their January 2006 peak. Multifamily Housing Starts FELL by 28.2% to 338k. Multifamily starts are now 5.1% BELOW their year ago level.