Permits, housing starts down in February

Permits for new homes went down last month.
Permits for new homes went down last month.
Housing starts declined in February according to a joint release from two government agencies.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that housing starts for privately owned projects came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000 in February. That's 5.9 percent lower than the 611,000 housing starts reported the month before.

Starts for single-family homes also dropped during the second month of 2010. According to the joint release, single-family starts posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 499,000, or 0.6 percent below January's mark.

Given the number of building permits issued, things may not get brighter for those who use construction equipment to build houses. Overall authorizations for privately owned housing units were down 1.6 percent in January, while permits for single-family units declined 0.2 percent.

However, the government's data also showed that more houses were completed in February. Single-family homes were completed at an annual rate during the month that was 4.3 percent higher than what was reported for January.

What remains to be seen is how the end of a government-sponsored tax credit for first-time homebuyers affects permits, starts and completions in the coming months. To qualify for the tax credit, agreements on a home purchase have to be made by April 30.