Housing Starts, Permits Tumble Driven By Collapse In Multi-Family Units

One look at the August housing starts and permits data, and one will wonder just how is it possible that yesterday NAHB homebuilder confidence rose to a 9 year high, when according to the US Department of Commerce both Housing Start and Permits tumbled in the past month, with the housing "leading indicator" that is Permits sliding 5.6% from 1040K to 998K, and declining sequentially in every region of the US, with double digit drops in the Northeast and the Midwest, while Housing Starts tumbled by 14.4% from 1117K, to only 956K, wildly missing Wall Street expectations of "only" a 5.2% drop to 1037K.

But while single-family units remained roughly flat in their depressed state, which hasn't moved much if at all since the start of 2013 (as can be seen on the chart below), it was multi-family units that were the most volatile on the margin once again, dropping from 396K to 343K, or 13.4% for permits, and a whopping 31.5% for starts.

How these moves look visually:

While one can doubt the veracity of such volatile data, one thing is clear: Wall Street is having trouble with clearing multi-family housing, which also means that builders are confused whether to start new multi-family units or just dump the whole theme, now that the PE firms are leaving the own-to-rent business entirely