September's housing market was reminiscent of the gambler who was asked how he did at the track. He said, “I broke even, and boy, did I need it!”
Housing starts were almost perfectly flat — up 0.3 percent from August, a total of 2,000 units — but apparently that was enough for many commentators, who sounded relieved that at least starts didn't go down. Building permits for future construction did go down, however, by 5.6 percent, suggesting that housing starts in the next couple of months may drop again as well.
September new home production was up slightly and new apartment production was down slightly, but neither change was large enough to be statistically significant.
John C. Weicher is director for of the Center for Housing and Financial Markets at the Hudson Institute and is former assistant secretary for housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.