May brings more new houses, but overall housing construction falls

A new U.S. Department of Commerce report on the housing market is a mixed bag of continued deterioration and hope for recovery.

Construction of single-family homes grew 3.2 percent in May to a rate of 516,000 units, with an increase in new housing permits of 7.9 percent to 780,000, according to the Department of Commerce report released Tuesday. (PDF)

However, due to a sharp, 21.3 percent decline in the construction of apartment complexes with at least two units, overall housing construction fell 4.8 percent in May. The Commerce Department report says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of home starts is now at 708,000.

But there is more good news. That number of 708,000 new units is an increase of 28.5 percent from this time a year ago. Plus, May’s rate of 780,000 new housing permits shattered economists’ forecast of 730,000 and marks the highest rate in three and a half years.