Housing starts and building permits are leading monthly indicators of residential building activity. Building permits are issued by building departments, signaling a green light to begin construction, and they indicate future construction. Housing starts reflect the number of homes, apartment buildings or townhouses on which construction began in a given month.
U.S. Starts & Permits
In the U.S., housing starts and building permits are reported monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (a division of the Department of Commerce). New housing construction data are collected by the Census Bureau in a series of surveys driven mainly through permit offices.
- Each report is released around the 15th of each month.
- The data is made available to the public on the Census Bureau's website.
- Each report is broken out by region: East, Midwest, North and South.
- Building permits by state are reported by the Census Bureau, but housing starts by state are not. This data can be purchased from the National Association of Home Builders.
- Delton Alderman and Urs Buehlmann are research scientists for the USDA Forest Service in Princeton, West Virginia. View their housing analysis’s which provide observations on U.S. housing statistics recorded.
- Wells Fargo's Housing Analysis: Housing Wrap Up: August 2015
- This Month's Housing Starts Report
- U.S. Housing Starts Chart: 2003 - Present
- U.S. Housing Permits Chart: 2003 - Present
- U.S. Housing Starts & Permits Chart: 2003 - Present
- U.S. Housing Starts and Permits compared with BCSI Documents and Jobsite Package Sales 2003 - Present
Canadian Housing Starts
In Canada, housing starts are reported to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). CMHC is Canada’s national housing agency established as a government-owned corporation in 1946.
- The report is released around the 10th of each month.
- The data is made available to the public at the CMHC website.
- Each report is broken out by province: Alberta, Atlantic Provinces (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), British Columbia, Ontario, Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and Québec.
- Unlike the U.S., CMHC does not track building permits.
- CMHC Report: Demographic and Socio-economic Influences on Housing Demand
- CMHC Report: Recent Trends in Canadian Housing Affordability and Core Housing Need
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find housing starts or building permit data specific to my state?
Due to its method of collecting data, the Census Bureau makes permit data available to the public, but not housing starts data. While the U.S. Census Bureau does track it, it is not made available to the public. You can buy it from the National Association of Home Builders.
What does SAAR mean?
Most housing starts data you see are shown as a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, or SAAR. Seasonally adjusted figures are helpful because they attempt to remove seasonal variations in data and allow you to easily compare figures monthly. SAAR is calculated by dividing the unadjusted annual rate for the month by its seasonality factor and creating an adjusted annual rate for the month.
I'm looking for annual housing starts from past years. Where can I find it?
The Census Bureau has a nifty list that goes back all the way to 1959!