Housing Production Softens as Construction Headwinds Pick Up in January
February 19, 2021
Housing production softened in January as rising lumber prices continue to affect the housing industry. Overall housing starts decreased 6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.58 million units, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The January reading of 1.58 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if development kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts decreased 12.2 percent to a 1.16 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, increased 17.1 percent to a 418,000 pace.
"Concerns over higher lumber prices produced softness for the housing market amid solid buyer traffic at the start of the year," says Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "With the cost of building materials rising at a rapid pace, the challenge for builders is to keep home prices at an affordable level for buyers even as the regulatory policy environment may become more challenging."
"The weakness in housing starts in January is consistent with our recent builder surveys," says Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist. "Builders report concerns over increasing lumber and other construction costs and delays in obtaining building materials. Rising interest rates will also erode housing affordability in 2021, as existing home inventories remain low. It's also worth noting that the number of single-family homes permitted, but not started construction jumped to 114,000 units in January. This is 9.6 percent higher than December and 28.1 percent higher than a year ago, as building material cost increases and delays slow some home building."
Overall permits increased 10.4 percent to a 1.88 million unit annualized rate in January. Single-family permits increased 3.8 percent to a 1.27 million unit rate. Multifamily permits increased 27.2 percent to a 612,000 pace.