The year is off to a good start in terms of housing data. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and HUD, new residential construction permits, starts, and completions all grew more than expected in January. Permits for single-family houses improved nearly 2 percent beyond December with 584,000 issues. Private multifamily permits are climbing toward the 1 million mark at 925,000 units, which is a 35.2 percent gain over the January 2012 numbers. 

Single-family starts in January 2013 rose 0.8 percent since the final December calculations. Multifamily starts dropped in December, but are approximately 9 percent higher overall compared with January 2012. Housing completions showed the most promise, especially because winter months tend to be a stagnant time for construction. Single-family finishes increased 7 percent since December, while multifamily figures exceeded January 2012 completions by nearly 40 percent. 

To further boost the spirits of builders and architects, the American Institute of Architects’ Architectural Billings Index (ABI) also experienced significant growth in January. The ABI predicts future construction activity (albeit mostly in nonresidential sectors) by questioning architecture firms across the country about projects currently in progress as well as serious project inquiries from prospective clients. While the total ABI figure of 54.2 is a big jump from 51.2 in December, the best news comes with the project inquiries index, which launched into the 60s last month.