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The housing starts pace of 529,000 was the lowest since October 2009, and consistent with what builders have been saying in recent surveys, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
"While builders remain extremely cautious about new construction at this time, they are looking forward to putting their employees back to work as economic conditions improve over the new year – assuming they can obtain the necessary financing for new-home production," said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist.
And while building permits increasd 16.7% in December, Crowe noted that the rate received a boost due to building code changes that were expected to go into effect in several states this January.
"The latest government report indicates that builders are preparing for an anticipated improvement in buyer demand in the spring buying season by pulling more permits in hopes of soon replenishing the very tight inventory of new homes for sale," said Bob Nielsen, NAHB chairman and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "That said, it remains to be seen if the availability of financing for new construction and existing viable projects will improve in order to make building feasible and facilitate a housing and economic recovery."