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U.S. Housing Starts Accelerate; Building Permits Skid to Eight-Month Low

In June, homebuilding in the U.S. exceeded expectations, although permits for future home construction dropped to their lowest level in eight months. This decline likely mirrors hesitancy stemming from the high costs of building materials and shortages in labor and land availability.

According to Yahoo News, the report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday suggested a severe shortage of houses, which has boosted prices and sparked bidding wars across the country, could persist for a while. Demand for houses is being driven by low mortgage rates and a desire for more spacious accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though lumber prices are coming down from record highs, builders are paying more for steel, concrete and lighting, and are grappling with shortages of appliances like refrigerators.

“Reports of multi-month delays in the delivery of windows, heating units, refrigerators and other items have popped up across the country, delaying delivery of homes and forcing builders to cap activity, and many builders continue to point to a shortage of available workers as a separate challenge,” said Matthew Speakman, an economist at Zillow.

Housing starts rose 6.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.643 million units last month. Data for May was revised down to a rate of 1.546 million units from the previously reported 1.572 million units. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast starts would rise to a rate of 1.590 million units.

Despite last month’s increase, starts remained below March’s rate of 1.737 million units, which was the highest level since July 2006. Homebuilding increased in the West and the populous South, but fell in the Northeast and Midwest.

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