Single-family home construction is expected to reach a new low for the U.S. this year, the National Association of Home Builders said Wednesday.
Builders are expected to construct about 422,000 houses in 2011, economists said in an online “webinar” for members and the news media. That forecast falls below the previous low record of 445,000 houses in 2009.
Single-family construction peaked at 1.7 million houses in 2005.
New building numbers suggest Sonoma County is doing somewhat better this year than in 2010 — its worst year on record for single-family construction. The Press Democrat is preparing a story for this Sunday on the local home building industry.
The builders’ association predicted construction to climb 17 percent next year to 495,000 houses and to reach 723,000 in 2013.
But states with the biggest “bubble” of distressed properties — including California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida — “are going to be the slowest to recover,” said Robert Denk, an assistant vice president forecasting and analysis.
New home production will still be 51 percent or less of normal in 2013 for all those states, he said. By that time, the best-performing states — Texas, Oklahoma and Washington among them — will be back to more than 75 percent of normal production levels.
All sorts of risks could undermine growth in both housing and the economy, including the European debt crisis and the domestic political battles to lower the federal debt. Another challenge has to do with the difficulty in financing home purchases.
“We are a long way from anything approaching normal conditions for lending, particularly in the housing market,” said Joel Prakken, senior managing director of Macroeconomic Advisers in St. Louis.
He later suggested that tighter lending restrictions and other factors could lead to increased construction of less-expensive homes.
And he predicted that unemployment in the U.S. would drop only modestly to 8.4 percent at the end of 2013 from 9 percent today.
— Robert Digitale