Last edited 05 Feb 2021

What is a housing start?

A housing start, also known as a new start, is an economic indicator used to determine the number of new residential construction projects that have begun over a certain period (such as a month, a quarter or a year).

The start of the construction is considered to be the date on which excavation begins for the footings or foundation of the building, or when work begins building on an existing foundation. All the housing units within a building are counted as having started when this excavation begins; for example, when work begins on semi-detached houses, or when work begins on the foundations of an apartment building.

The figures for new housing starts can provide an indicator for how the economy is performing over a given period of time. The types of new houses that are being started can also provide insights into the particular direction in which the economy is moving, e.g. a decline in new starts of suburban single-family houses and an increase in new starts of inner-city apartment buildings may indicate a move to more affordable housing options in closer proximity to urban centres.

Speculative builders and property developers use data on new housing starts to inform their procurement of land for development and their plans for their existing portfolio of land.

Politicians and economists use new starts data to assess the effectiveness of policies to tackle the housing crisis.

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