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Post-hurricane rebuilding fuels jump in Oct US home construction

[WASHINGTON] US homebuilding jumped to a one-year high in October likely as disruptions caused by recent hurricanes in the South faded and communities in the region started replacing houses damaged by flooding. Housing starts surged 13.7 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million units, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the highest level since October 2016. September's sales pace was revised up to 1.135 million units from the previously reported 1.127 million units. Groundbreaking activity in the South, which accounts for almost half of US residential construction, plummeted in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The storms slammed Texas and Florida in late August and early September.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.185 million units last month.

Housing starts in the South soared 17.2 per cent in October to 621,000 units, with single-family construction vaulting 16.6 per cent to its highest level since 2007. There were also increases in homebuilding in the Midwest and Northeast.

October's increase in starts ended three straight months of declines. Homebuilding has struggled this year, hamstrung by shortages of land and labor as well as expensive lumber.

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Investment in homebuilding has contracted for two consecutive quarters. That has contributed to a worsening housing shortage, which has held back home sales.

A survey on Thursday showed confidence among homebuilders in November at the second-highest level since July 2005 amid optimism about current sales conditions and buyer traffic. Builders, however, continued to complain about the lack of buildable lots, land and pricey materials. Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, increased 5.3 per cent to a rate of 877,000 units in October, the highest level in eight months.

Single-family starts fell 22.4 per cent in the Northeast and slipped 7.7 per cent in the West. They rose 7.8 per cent in the Midwest. Groundbreaking on single-family housing projects has slowed since racing to near a 9-1/2-year high in February. Last month, starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment surged 36.8 per cent to a rate of 413,000 units. Building permits increased 5.9 per cent to a rate of 1.297 million units in October, the highest level since January. Single-family home permits rose 1.9 per cent, while permits for the construction of multi-family homes jumped 13.9 per cent.

REUTERS

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