Builders failed to ramp up inventories last month, despite increasing demand from home buyers and calls from the real estate industry. New-home construction dropped 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million units, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Development reported Wednesday.
Single-family production fell 0.5 percent month over month in July to an adjusted annual rate of 856,000. The July reading does follow a strong, upwardly revised June reading, the National Association of Home Builders notes. Single-family starts are 8.6 percent higher than a year ago.
Multifamily starts, meanwhile, plunged 15.3 percent last month to 299,000 units.
“New-home production numbers this month are in line with our forecast for a slow and steady recovery of the housing market,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist. “We saw multifamily production peak in 2015, and this sector should continue to level off as demand remains solid.”
Overall, inventories of homes for sale are at a 20-year low, according to realtor.com® data. Economists have been calling for new-home construction to help make up the shortfall in the market.
“The housing shortage in America will intensify if new construction remains as lackluster as it was in July,” Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS®’ chief economist, said in a statement. “The softening multifamily housing starts brought down the overall new housing unit additions to the second lowest monthly activity this year. Moreover, the latest 15 percent drop in multifamily housing starts and 0.5 percent drop in single-family starts will hold back economic growth potential. Because of this shortage, expect rents and home prices to rise by at least twice as fast as the broad consumer price index.”
Regionally, combined single-family and multifamily housing production increased only in the South in July, inching up 0.6 percent month over month. Housing starts posted a 15.7 percent month-over-month drop in the Northeast, a 15.2 percent drop in the Midwest and fell by 1.6 percent in the West.
Housing permits, a gauge of future construction, dropped 4.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million units. Single-family permits mostly held steady at 811,000 units while multifamily permits dropped 11.2 percent to 412,000.