The unusual weather that kept builders out of the field continued into February and kept starts below their expected levels.
February housing starts were virtually unchanged from slightly upward revised January figures for both total starts as well as single-family and multifamily. Total housing starts were 907,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, nearly identical to 909,000 in January, which was revised upward from 880,000. Single-family starts were 583,000, up 2,000 from January and multifamily came in at 324,000, down 4,000 from January.
Regionally, single-family starts remained well below 2013 totals in the Northeast and Midwest while above last year in the South and West. The regional differences match the location of the worst below-average temperatures and above-average snow falls and support the explanation of a weather effect rather than a shift in the housing market.
Less weather-dependent permits were up almost 8% to 1,018,000, the fourth month over one million in the past year and second only to October 2013 since June 2008. Single-family permits were down almost 2 percent to an annual level of 588,000, due to a 13,000 drop in the West. Multifamily permits, on the other hand, rose 24 percent to 430,000, their highest level since May 2007.
Single-family completions continued to follow a general increasing trend rising to 631,000, the highest since December 2008 as builders continue to restock their depleted inventory in preparation for the spring selling season. Limited buildable lot and skilled labor supply have caused builders to slow production in some markets and lengthen their construction time in order to meet demand.