Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment shrank 22 percent to 302 thousand and single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, went down 6.7 percent to a rate of 758 thousand units, the fourth straight monthly fall and the the lowest level since August of 2016. Starts declined in the South (-6 percent to 630 thousand), the West (-26.3 percent to 216 thousand) and the Midwest (-13.2 percent to 125 thousand) and were flat in the Northeast (107 thousand). Starts for November were revised to 1,214 thousand from 1,256 thousand.
Building permits increased 0.3 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate 1,326 thousand in December 2018, easily beating market expectations of a 2.8 percent drop to 1,290 thousand. Permits for the volatile multi-family housing segment rose 4.9 percent to 497 thousand while single-family authorisations declined 2.2 percent to 829 thousand. Across regions, building permits increased in the West (17.1 percent to 383 thousand), but fell in the South (-2 percent to 688 thousand), the Midwest (-17.6 percent to 145 thousand) and the Northeast (-6 percent to 110 thousand). Considering full 2018, building permits rose a non-seasonally adjusted 2.2 percent to 1310.7 thousand.
Year-on-year, housing starts fell 10.9 percent and building permits edged up 0.5 percent.