Building permits were issued in March at a seasonally adjusted rate that was 3.9 percent lower than in February but 17.3 percent higher than one year earlier according to data released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The permitting rate in March was 902,000 compared to the February rate of 939,000 which was itself revised down from an original rate of 946,000.   In March 2012 the rate was estimated at 769,000.

Permits for single-family construction were issued at a rate of 595,000, 0.5 percent below the revised (from 600,000) February figure.  Permits for units in buildings with five or more units were issued at a rate of 283,000, down 8.1 percent from the 308,000 permits issued in February.

Building Permits

Construction was begun on residential construction at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,036,000, an increase of 7.0 percent from the substantially revised February estimate of 968,000 and 46.7 percent higher than the rate in March 2012 of 706,000.  February's rate was initially reported at 917,000.

Single-family housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000, 4.8 percent below February's revised estimate of 650,000, originally reported at 615,000 and 28 percent higher than single-family starts in February 2012.  An estimated 392,000 units were started in multi-unit buildings compared to 309,000 units in February.

Housing Starts

Residential units were completed at a rate of 800,000 compared to 721,000 in February, an increase of 11.0 percent.   Completions of single family units are estimated at 593,000, up 2.6 percent from the previous month.  Residential completions were 36.3 percent higher than a year earlier and single-family completions were 34.8 percent above the older rate.

In the Northeast region permitting was up 24.7 percent on both a month-over-month and year-over-year basis.  Housing starts were down 5.8 percent from February but up 12.6 percent from March 2012 and completions rose 24.2 percent and 15.5 percent respectively.

Permitting decreased 2.4 percent in the Midwest compared to February but rose 9.2 percent from a year earlier.  Housing starts were up 9.6 percent and 28.4 percent for the two periods.  Completions increased 2.7 percent from February but were down 6.6 percent from the same period in 2012.

In the South there were 6.2 percent fewer permits in March than in February but 21.8 percent more than in March 2012.  Starts increased 10.9 percent and 58.2 percent and completions by 3.4 percent and 29.1 percent over the two respective periods.

Permitting in the West was down 10.4 percent on a monthly basis and up 10 percent annually.  Starts were up 2.7 percent from February and increased 53 percent from March 2012.  Housing units were completed at a rate that was 25.5 percent higher than in February and 112.6 percent higher than a year earlier.