US home building rose slightly in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders broke ground on more apartment buildings last month, pushing up overall home construction 1.9 percent.

The Commerce Department said housing starts rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.32 million, driven by a big 16 percent gain in apartment buildings. Single-family home construction slipped 3.7 percent.

Home construction has grown steadily since the housing crash bottomed out in 2012 and has emerged as a potential source of long-term economic growth. The pace of homebuilding is still below its long-run average of about 1.5 million houses and apartments a year. And millennials are increasingly moving out on their own and seeking to buy homes.

The construction of houses and apartments rose nearly 11 percent in March from a year earlier, the government said. Single-family home construction is up 5.2 percent from 12 months ago.

Still, builders are struggling with conflicting trends in the housing market. There is a severe shortage of existing homes, which has pushed up prices in cities around the country. The number of existing homes available for sale in February plunged 8.1 percent from a year ago. That’s lifting demand for new homes.

At the same time, mortgage rates have risen steadily in the past year.

COMMENTS