Permits for construction of privately owned housing units increased slightly in December while housing starts had a stronger showing according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Thursday. Permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 903,000, a 0.3 percent increase from the revised November rate of 900,000 and 28.8 percent higher than the December 2011 estimate of 701,000.  The November permitting pace was originally estimated at 899,000.

Permits for single family construction were issued at a rate of 578,000, 1.8 percent higher than the November estimate of 568,000 (revised from 565,000).  Construction in buildings of five or more units was at the rate of 301,000 units, down from 304,000 in November.

There were an estimated 813,400 building permits issued in 2012.  This is a 30.3 percent increase over the estimated 624,000 permits issued in 2011.

Building Permits

Housing starts in December were 12.1 percent higher than in November.  Starts in the last month of the year were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 954,000 compared to a revised 851,000 (from 861,000) in November.  The   December starts were 36.9 percent higher than the 697,000 starts one year earlier.

Single family housing starts were at a rate of 616,000, up 8.1 percent from 570,000 in November and the December rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 330,000 compared to 268,000 in November

An estimated 780,000 housing units were begun in 2012, 28.1 percent more than the 2011 figure of 608,800.

Housing Starts

There were 686,000 housing completions on a seasonally adjusted annual basis in December, 1.6 percent over the 675,000 reported for November and 13.2 percent higher than the December 2011 rate of 606,000.  The November figure was revised downward slightly from 677,000.

Single family completions were at the rate of 535,000, a 3.7 percent increase from 516,000 in November.  The completion rate for units in buildings with five or more was 144,000.

In the Northeast the permitting rate increased 19.0 percent from November and 23.7 percent form one year earlier.  Housing starts were up 21.4 percent month-over-month and 37.1 percent year-over-year, but completions were way dawn, -21.9 percent from the previous month and --27.8 percent from the same period in 2011.

The Midwest saw a 5.7 percent drop in permitting from November but the rate was 33.0 percent higher than a year earlier.  Housing starts were up 24.7 from November and 10.7 percent from December 2011, and completions were up 16.7 percent and 6.7 percent respectively.

The South had a 3.5 percent decrease in permitting from November but the rate was up 25.7 compared to December 2011.  Housing starts were up 3.8 percent for the month and 43.0 percent compared to a year earlier; completions rose 4.3 percent and 21.1 percent for the respective periods.

In the West permits were up 6.6 percent and 35.5 percent.  Housing starts increased 18.7 percent from November and 57.4 percent from December 2011 and housing completions were down 2.5 percent month-over-month and up 25.6 percent year-over-year.

At the end of December there were 93,300 outstanding permits for which construction had not been started and 547,000 units under construction.