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According to an analysis of the housing market for the Maryland State Builders Association, the national and local situation is -- brace yourself -- lousy.

The report, "Housing Market Remains in the Basement," written by economist Anirban Basu of Sage Policy Group in Baltimore, lays out a variety of the sobering statistics that have made data-watchers anxious. (Here's a PDF of the report.)

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Basu writes that "housing construction in Maryland remains mired at or near its cyclical nadir."

"Even after many inducements and one year of economic recovery, home construction activity in Maryland remains a fraction of what it was five years ago," he notes.

He says the outlook is "bleak" in the near term, pointing to big drops in new home sales nationwide, falling housing starts, depressed levels of mortgage applications by buyers and high numbers of foreclosures. But wait -- there's more:

"According to the most recent survey conducted by the National Association of Homebuilders, well over half of survey respondents reported that the availability of credit for acquisition, construction and development (ADC) loans has worsened every quarter for ten quarters in a row," Basu writes.

He describes a "downward spiral" in which falling appraised values constrain credit, which in turn depresses values.

The new-home market has an effect on resales and vice versa. It also impacts employment and local tax revenues.

Employment in Maryland's construction industry fell by more than 20 percent -- nearly 50,000 jobs -- between the start of the recession in December 2007 and February of this year, Basu says. The industry is contributing less in taxes as a result.

All in all, the housing industry is not in a "sustained recovery," he says. When do you think it will be?

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