Housing Starts Slip on Multifamily
A correction from an unsustainably high level of production on the volatile multifamily side was largely responsible for a 16.5 percent dip in nationwide housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 853,000 units in April, according to HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. However, permits for new construction headed solidly higher in the month. "The big decline in April housing production was mostly on the multifamily side, which recorded a similarly dramatic increase in the previous month," noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Meanwhile, overall permits for new construction surpassed the million-unit mark and the number of yet-to-be-used permits rose in April, which is a good indicator that the dip in building activity was likely a temporary pause due partly to unseasonably poor weather conditions."
Codes and Energy
AAMA Releases Courses on Fenestration
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) recently released education courses on code requirements, energy efficiency and thermal performance, as well as skylights and daylighting, as part of the association’s FenestrationMasters program. This is the fourth group of FenestrationMasters courses released by AAMA. Group 1 courses cover product types and design considerations, window, door and skylight performance standards, proper glass selection and specialty performance considerations (blast, impact, tornado and acoustics). Group 2 courses cover profile performance and material considerations, as well as coatings and finishes. Group 3 courses cover hardware, weatherstripping and weatherseals, as well as sealants and adhesives used during factory fabrication.
AAMA is planning to release Group 5 (installation and field testing/forensic evaluation) in May and Group 6 (curtain wall systems and storefronts) in June. For a full course listing, visit aamanet.org/fenestrationmasters.
Buyers’ Sense of Urgency Rises; Afforability Increases
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved three points to a 44 reading on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for May. This gain, from a downwardly revised 41 in April, reflected improvement in all three index components - current sales conditions, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers. At the same time, the first quarter of 2013 held near historic highs in nationwide housing affordability according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). Between the beginning of January and end of March, 73.7 percent of new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $64,400.
Improving Markets Fall Slightly
The number of U.S. housing markets showing sustained improvement in three key measures fell slightly to 258 in May from 273 in April, according to the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI).
The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Four new markets were added to the list and 19 were dropped from it this month. Newcomers included the geographically diverse metros of Dothan, Ala.; Elizabethtown, Ky.; Salisbury, Md.; and Salem, Ore. "The fact that over 70 percent of all U.S. metros are holding onto their spots on the improving list is definitely good news, and representative of the generally brightening outlook for housing markets nationwide," said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.
Problem Loan Rates Hit Six-Year Low
The March Mortgage Monitor report released by Lender Processing Services found that new problem loan rates (seriously delinquent mortgages that were current six months ago) have fallen below 1 percent for the first time since 2007. At 0.84 percent, the March new problem loan rate is approaching pre-crisis levels, and nearing the conditions of 2000-2004 when the rate averaged 0.55 percent.
Comment Period Re-opened on Commercial RRP
EPA has announced a public meeting June 26, 2013, on renovation, repair and painting activities in public and commercial buildings. The document reopens the comment period for the December 31, 2012 Federal Register document to allow for additional data and other information to be submitted by the public and interested stakeholders. The meeting will be held at the Environmental Protection Agency offices in Washington, DC 20460. For information: TSCA-Hotline, (202) 554-1404; email: TSCA-Hotline@epa.gov; or regulations.gov.