December's housing starts left a lump of coal in the housing industry's stocking, rounding out a dismal year. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 in December was the lowest rate of the year, down 8.2 percent from November; and the 2010 total of 587,000 starts was slightly better than 2009 (554,000) but lower than any other year since World War II. An increase in apartment construction in December was more than offset by a drop of 14.2 percent in new homes, from a November rate of 458,000 to a December rate of 417,000 -- also the lowest of the year. Unfortunately, two very bad years in a row have not made a substantial dent in the overhang of unsold homes, which is not a good omen for 2011.
John C. Weicher is director 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.