The rate of permitting for construction of single family housing and residential construction completions were both down in March, Housing starts did rise slightly.

The Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that permits for privately owned housing were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,039,000 in March, a 5.7 percent drop from the February rate of 1,102,000 (revised from an original estimate of 1,092,000), and short of the forecast of 1,080,000. The March number was an increase of 2.9 percent from 1,010,000 a year earlier.

Single-family permits were issued at a rate of 636,000 units compared to 623,000 units the previous month.  This was a gain of 2.1 percent for the month and an annual increase of 4.1 percent.  Authorizations for construction of units in buildings of five or more units fell 16.0 percent to 378,000 and were down 1.6 percent from the previous March.

On a non-adjusted basis there were 90,900 permits issued for private residential construction in March compared to 77,500 in February.  Single-family permits numbered 57,100, up from 43,500 and 31,700 multi-family units were authorized compared to 32,000 in February. 

Construction was begun (housing 'starts') on residential units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000.  This was a 2.0 percent improvement over February and the estimate for that month was revised from 897,000 units to 908,000, but short of the forecast for 1,040,000.  March housing starts were down 2.5 percent from the annual rate of 950,000 in March 2014.

Single-family housing starts were at a rate of 618,000 units, 4.4 percent above the slightly lowered number for February of 592,000 but down 2.7 percent from March of last year.   Multi-family starts were at a rate of 287,000 units, a 7.1 percent month-over-month decline.

On a non-adjusted basis starts in March totaled 77,400 units, 52,500 of which were single-family houses.  In February the respective numbers were 63,600 and 40,800.

Residential construction was completed (housing 'completions') at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 823,000 units, a 3.9 percent decrease from 856,000 units in February and 5.8 percent below the estimate of 874,000 units a year earlier. The February rate was also revised upward from 850,000. 

Single family homes were completed at an estimated rate of 602,000 units, up 0.8 percent from 597,000 in February.  The rate of completions for multi-family units was 211,000, a -12.1 percent change.

On a non-adjusted basis 63,000 units were completed during the month, a +4,400 unit change from February.  An estimated 46,300 of the total units were single-family.

At the end of the period there were an estimated 842,000 units (seasonally adjusted) under construction in the U.S.  Of these 363,000 were estimated to be single family houses. The number of previously issued permits for which construction had not yet started was estimated at 135,200 at the end of March.

In the Northeast region the rate of permitting rose 39.8 percent from February but was down 3.7 percent from March 2014.  Housing starts, which had plummeted by more than 50 percent in February, rose 114.9 percent in March but remained 18.5 percent below the estimated rate of starts the previous March. The rate of housing completions was unchanged from February and down 17.4 percent from a year earlier.

The Midwest saw a 4.4 percent drop in permits from February to March and a 5.6 percent decrease from a year earlier. Housing starts rose by 31.3 percent for the month but fell 11.9 percent on an annual basis.  Completions fell by 18.0 percent and 21.6 percent respectively for the two periods.

In the South the rate of permits dropped 14.2 percent from February but was 4.0 percent higher than in March 2014.  Housing starts were 3.5 percent lower than in February but up 4.2 percent from the previous March.  Completions were 3.2 percent lower than in February and 4.4 percent below a year earlier.

The rate of permitting in the West fell off from February by 4.3 percent but was up 9.9 percent on a year-over-year basis.  There was a 19.3 percent drop in housing starts from February's rate and 2.0 percent from the previous March.  Completions were up 2.3 percent and 5.6 percent on a monthly and annual basis.