"Housing starts dropped for the third straight month in August as homebuilders reacted to the sluggish economy and disarray in the stock market," said Robert J. Sheehan, consulting economist for the National Apartment Association.
Sheenhan added, "Housing starts, in spite of the recent declines, remain at relatively high levels as a result of the lowest mortgage interest rates since the 1960s."
Housing starts fell 2.2 percent in August to a 1.609 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate, from a revised 1.645 million-unit rate for July, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Single-family starts occurred at a 1.252 million-unit rate last month, off 4.4 percent from the 1.309 million-unit rate in July. Multifamily starts increased 6.3 percent to a 357,000- unit annual rate last month from the 336,000-unit rate for July. Starts of apartment units (in structures with five or more units) increased 8.2 percent to a 330,000-unit rate in August from a 305,000-unit rate a month earlier.
Building permit activity declined 2.5 percent in August to a 1.669 million-unit rate from the 1.712 million-unit rate for July. Trends in permits in the two major sectors, however, were the reverse of that of housing starts. The decline occurred in multifamily permits, which dropped 15.0 percent, with the apartment component down 18.5 percent. Single-family permits rose 1.7 percent.
Regionally housing starts were mixed in August. They fell 18.7 percent in the Midwest and 1.6 percent in the West. They rose 9.4 percent in the Northeast and 3.1 percent in the South.
Starts rose 3.7 percent during the first eight months of this year, vs. the same period a year ago. Single-family starts accounted for the increase with a 4.8 percent rise. Multifamily starts showed a 0.2 percent decline.