Due to the coronavirus outbreak, housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,216,000, 22.3% below the revised February estimate of 1,564,000, but 1.4% above the March 2019 rate of 1,199,000, according to a report from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday. Overall permits declined 6.8% to 1.35 million.

Single‐family housing starts in March were at a rate of 856,000, a drop of 17.5% from February. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 347,000, substantially down from 511,000 the month before.

Building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,353,000, 6.8% below the revised February rate of 1,452,000, but 5.0% above the March 2019 rate of 1,288,000. Single‐family authorizations in March were at a rate of 884,000, down 12.0% from February's figure of 1,005,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 423,000 in March, up from 402,000 in February.

Housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,227,000, 6.1% below the revised February estimate of 1,307,000 and 9.0% below the March 2019 rate of 1,348,000. Single‐family housing completions in March were at a rate of 863,000, a 15% decline from February. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 357,000, up fro 283,000 the month prior.

“We expect further declines in housing starts in April, due to the unprecedented decline in builder confidence in our latest member survey,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz in a new release following the report. “It is worth noting that there are currently 534,000 single-family homes currently under construction and 684,000 apartments. Approximately 90% of these single-family units are located in states where home building is deemed as an ‘essential service,’ while 80% of apartments are located in such states.”