Nationwide housing production rose 8.9 percent in November, and building permits reached their highest levels in a year, the federal government reports.
The gain, driven by a big increase on the multifamily side, represented a partial bounce-back from an exceptionally slow month for housing activity in October, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Commerce Department.
"The fact that both starts and permits for new housing production rose last month is a good sign that we're headed in the right direction, albeit slowly, on the road to a housing recovery," said Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "That said, the November improvement was primarily on the multifamily side, and poor job markets and other economic factors are still keeping many potential buyers on the fence for the time being."
NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe added: "Home builders remain very cautious about starting new homes, and overall housing production is still down on a three-month average basis. Understandably, it will take some time for the newly extended and expanded home buyer tax credit to start boosting sales in individual markets - just as it did the last time such an incentive was enacted.
"However, the fact that permits increased in November is a hopeful indication that the desired impact of the tax credit on housing demand may be forthcoming early in 2010."
Single-family housing starts made up some of the ground they lost in October, posting a modest 2.1 percent gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000 units in November. Meanwhile, multifamily starts rebounded from an all-time low in the previous month with a 67.3 percent gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 92,000 units in November.
Gains in housing production were registered across all regions of the country in November, with a 16.4 percent increase in the Northeast, a 3 percent gain in the Midwest, a 12.3 percent increase in the South, and a nearly 2 percent gain in the West.
Permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 6 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 584,000 units-its highest level in a year. Single-family permits rose 5.3 percent to 473,000 units, while multifamily permits rose 8.8 percent to 111,000 units.
Three out of four regions posted gains in housing permits for November, with a 4.7 percent increase reported in the Northeast, a 10.7 percent increase posted in the South, and a 2.7 percent gain registered in the West. The Midwest posted a 1.9 percent decline.