Housing Starts Fell 4.1% in December

Builders broke ground on fewer houses than expected in December as falling home prices and ongoing foreclosures continue to hamper an industry-wide recovery.

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Housing starts fell 4.1 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 657,000 units, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday.

Starts of buildings with five or more units fell 27.8 percent to a 164,000-unit rate, the biggest drop since February, but groundbreaking on single-family homes rose 4.4 percent to a 470,000-unit rate, the highest since April 2010.

Building permits, a proxy for future construction, fell …

0.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 679,000 units.

Work was started on just 428,600 single-family homes in all of 2011 as construction competed with the surfeit of previously-owned homes on the market.

However, work began on 606,900 homes in 2011, up from the 587,000 in 2010 and reflecting gains in multi-family construction.

New construction on multi-family dwellings helped sustain business at the end of 2011 as rampant foreclosures turned more Americans into renters.

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