What's Good About More New Homes?

In America this week, the housing market rejoices: Housing starts climbed an unexpected 3.6% in June. According to the latest from the Commerce Department, builders broke ground on new homes at an annual rate of 582,000 in June, well above the Street’s expectations and the “best” month for housing starts since November. Curiously, single-family homes led the way, with a 14% building boom from the month before. That’s the biggest one-month gain since 2004.

Of course, this is a “signal that the housing market was improving” in June, as The New York Times suggests. But we dug up a longer-term chart of housing starts this morning that didn’t inspire as much confidence. Starts may have come up from the deep blue abyss, but we’re yet to emerge from uncharted waters.


And who says more housing starts are a good thing? We may be market simpletons, but we’re under the impression home prices are falling because demand is exceptionally weak and supply is exceptionally high. So explain to us again how adding more inventory to the 3.8 million existing homes on the market helps stop the bleeding.

Over 1.53 million homeowners were in the foreclosure process in the first half of 2009. That’s an all-time high, said RealtyTrac late last week — and up 9% from the last half of 2008 and up 15% from the same time last year.

Around 1.9 million individual properties are in some form of foreclosure, or one in every 84 U.S. properties. And we’re adding new homes at an annual rate of 582,000? Really, we must be missing something this morning.