Reflecting the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, total housing starts decreased 22.3 percent in March from a downwardly revised February reading to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million units, according to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department.
Single-family starts decreased 17.5 percent to an 856,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, decreased 31.7 percent to a 360,000 pace.
"Housing has been deemed an essential business in most of the nation, and in the few states where the governors have not acted, we urge them to deem construction as essential," says Dean Mon, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "Housing can help lead an eventual rebound, as it has done in previous recessions."
"We expect further declines in housing starts in April, due to the unprecedented decline in builder confidence in our latest member survey," says Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist. "It is worth noting that there are currently 534,000 single-family homes currently under construction and 684,000 apartments. Approximately 90 percent of these single-family units are located in states where home building is deemed as an 'essential service,' while 80 percent of apartments are located in such states."
Overall permits declined 6.8 percent to a 1.35 million unit annualized rate in March. Single-family permits decreased 12 percent to an 884,000 unit rate, while multifamily permits increased 4.9 percent to a 469,000 pace.