Housing permits were issued in February at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000, an increase of 4.6 percent from January and 33.8 percent higher than the 707,000 permitting pace in February 2012.   The January figure however represented a substantial downward revision from the 925,000 unit rate originally reported to 904,000, largely due to an earlier overestimate of multi-family permits.

Permits for single family housing were issued at an annual rate of 600,000, up 2.7 percent from the January estimate of 584,000 and 25.5 percent higher than in February 2012.  Permits in buildings with five or more units were issued at a rate of 316,000 units compared to 294,000 units revised from 311,000 units, in January.

Building Permits

Construction was begun on privately-owned housing units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, 0.8 percent above the revised January estimate of 910,000 and 27.7 percent above the rate one year earlier of 718,000.  The January number is a substantial improvement over the 890,000 units originally reported.

Single family housing starts were at a rate of 618,000 compared to 615,000 the previous month and 470,000 units the year before.   There were 285,000 starts in multi-family buildings compared to 283,000 in January and 240,000 in February 2012.

Housing Starts

Housing units were completed at an annual rate of 711,000 and single family units at a rate of 574,000 compared to 715,000 and 554,000 in January.  There were 575,000 units under construction at the end of the reporting period, 288,000 of which were single family units and 96,000 permits for which construction had not yet begun.  Almost 48,000 of these permits were for units in multi-unit buildings.

Activity was mixed on a regional basis.  In the Northeast permits were down 18.2 percent from the previous month and 1.2 percent below February 2012.  Housing starts were up 18.4 percent month-over-month and 56.1 percent year-over-year.  Units completions were 1.4 percent higher than in January but 7.6 percent below the pace a year earlier.

The Midwest region saw a 1.4 percent increase in permits issued compared to January and 21.8 percent from February 2012.  Housing starts were up 37.3 percent and 33.3 percent respectively and completions rose 32.1 percent and 14.4 percent.

Permitting was up 9.9 percent on a monthly basis in the South and 35.2 percent annually.  Housing starts were down 5.7 percent from January but up 10.5 percent from a year earlier.  Housing completions fell 7.2 percent form a month earlier but were 23.3 percent higher than the same month in 2012.

In the West permitting increased 6.8 percent from January and was 51.6 percent higher than in the previous year while housing starts lagged the January pace by 7.2 percent but were up 62.5 percent on an annual basis.  Completions were down 2 percent from January but were 57.5 percent above the rate in February 2012.  

The February report on new residential construction was released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Developmen.