Make us your home page
Instagram

Construction on new homes at all-time low

WASHINGTON — Home construction in the United States is all but coming to a halt.

Americans are on track to buy fewer new homes than in any year since the government began keeping data almost a half-century ago. Sales are now just half the pace of 1963 — even though there are 120 million more people in the United States now.

Sales of new homes plunged in February to an annual rate of 250,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the third straight monthly drop. The pace is far below the pace economists say is healthy, about 700,000 a year.

Diminished sales have driven the median price of a new home down to about $202,000, the lowest since 2003. If the sluggish sales continue, analysts say, small home builders will fold, meaning less competition as the market improves and higher prices later.

"The longer it goes on, the more builders will drift away from the industry altogether," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist of Capital Economics.

Ashworth noted that a surge in foreclosures is forcing down prices for previously occupied homes even faster than they're falling for new homes. As a result, new homes are less attractive to buyers.

"That's not going to change for at least another year or two," Ashworth said. "Under these conditions, you can't really see home builders willing to ramp up, and that's bad for buyers."

Last year, 323,000 new homes were sold — the worst year on record and the fifth straight year of declines. In 1963, when the U.S. population was about 190 million — compared with today's nearly 310 million — far more new homes were sold: 560,000.

New homes have accounted for just 5 percent of all sales so far this year. They typically represent closer to 15 percent. There were just 183,000 new homes available for sale in February, the smallest supply in four decades.

Builders have responded by scaling back. In February, they broke ground on only about 40 percent of the number of homes they typically do in normal markets.

That decline in activity is weighing down the construction industry, which in the past has fueled economic recoveries. It's also slowing the broader economy. Each new home creates an average of three jobs for a year and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Construction on new homes at all-time low 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Appointments at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Straz Center highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Charities

    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell its new chief executive officer, effective Oct. 16. Selected by the Y's CEO Search Committee following a five-month search, Mitchell will succeed Tom Looby, who is retiring. Looby has served the Y Movement for 37 years, the past 10 …

    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell as its new Chief Executive Officer. [Handout photo]
  2. Rep. Larry Ahern gets roughed up by Clearwater City Council

    State Roundup

    It seemed innocuous enough: an "end of session report" from state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, to the Clearwater City Council.

    Then Ahern got taken to the woodshed.

    Rep. Larry Ahern is vying for a seat on the Pinellas commission.
  3. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  4. Lockdown: Florida's 97,000 prison inmates confined through weekend

    State Roundup

    All of Florida's 97,000 state prison inmates are on lockdown — and will remain confined to their dorms at least through the weekend — in response to unspecified threats about possible uprisings, officials from the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

    Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  5. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]