Statistics on building permits and housing starts increased slightly in January according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and there was a substantial increase in the number of new homes that reached completion during the month.

Building permits for privately owned housing units were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 676,000 in January, 0.7 percent higher than the downwardly revised December figure of 671,000 and 19.0 percent higher than one year earlier when 568,000 permits were issued.  The number of permits issued in December was originally estimated at 679,000.

Permits were issued for the construction of single family houses at the rate of 445,000, 0.9 percent above the revised December rate of 441,000 (originally estimated at 444,000) and a 6.2 percent increase from the same period in 2011.  Permits were issued for units in multi-family buildings at an annual rate of 208,000, a 61.2 percent increase from a year earlier.

Permits were up by 10.1 percent in the South and 4.2 percent in the Northeast and were down 18.2 percent in the West and 3.7 percent in the Midwest.

Building Permits

Construction was begun on privately owned housing units in January at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000, an increase of 1.5 percent above the upwardly revised December estimate (from 657,000) of 689,000 and 9.9 percent higher than the rate of 636,000 in January 2011.

Single family housing starts were down 1.0 percent to 508,000 from a revised December estimate or 513,000 and 16.2 percent higher than in January 2011.  Multi-family starts increased 14.4 percent from 153,000 in December to 175,000 in January.

Starts were up on a month-over-month basis in three regions, the Northeast (7.9 percent), the South (18.3 percent) and the West (11.9 percent) but fell 48.7 percent in the Midwest.

Housing Starts

Houses reached completion at an annual pace of 530,000 in January, a 12.0 percent drop from December's estimate of 602,000 but 4.1 percent above the January 2010 rate of 509,000.  The pace of single-family completions was 389,000, down 14 percent from December, and multi-family completions were unchanged from a month earlier at 136,000.  Completions increased 7.5 percent in the Northeast to 36,000 but were down in the other three regions.  The Midwest declined 21.4 percent to 81,000, the South by 6.8 percent to 276,000 and the West by 29.3 percent to 87,000.

At the end of January there were 76,600 outstanding permits nationwide compared to 78,100 in December.  These are permits that have been issued but for which construction had not begun.  More than half of these backlogged permits (42,900) are in the South.