Encouraged by strong homebuyer demand, low interest rates, improving consumer sentiment and healthy house-price performance, homebuilders ramped up the pace at which they started new homes and apartments to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.70 million units in November, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. This was a 2.4 percent increase from an upwardly revised rate of 1.66 million units in October.

“The housing market remains a true bright spot amidst the slowly reviving economy, and we're ending 2002 on a high note,” said Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a homebuilder from Woodbridge, Va.

NAHB is projecting a total of 1.69 million housing starts for all of 2002, the greatest number in 16 years, including 1.35 million single-family housing starts, the greatest number in 14 years.

For November, single-family starts were up nearly 1 percent from October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.39 million units. Multifamily starts rose 10 percent in November to a 307,000-unit rate, partially offsetting a big dip in the previous month.

Regionally, overall starts rose by double digits in the Midwest and South, which registered 10.9 percent and 10.1 percent gains, respectively. Housing production slowed 5.6 percent in the Northeast and 11.9 percent in the West, respectively.

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