The U.S. housing market took a hit in March due to COVID-19 economic shutdowns, except for single-family homebuilders who reported modest gains in starts, permits, and completions for the month. This, according to the joint report published on Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The report showed houses under construction, which is a gauge of builder confidence and future demand, increased by more than one percentage point on a seasonally adjusted basis. Housing starts were also up, rising 1.6% above February. Residential building permits spiked in March by 19.2%, showing intentions to build more homes in the months ahead. Home completions had the largest increase of 27.0%, indicating that builders are focusing on delivering recently started homes to buyers.

Most markets did experience declines in starts due to the coronavirus, but single-family homes prevailed. Single-family new construction was the only segment of housing that increased, falling just 0.2% from the same time last year, according to the report. Multi-family housing activity dropped 9.7%.

The single-family sector may continue to serve as a beacon of stability in an otherwise volatile housing market, thanks to historically low mortgage interest rates. Homebuyers in search of a detached home may still find recourse in the builders who are actively constructing. As median home prices continue to climb, however, access to relatively more affordable single-family homes could be a crucial element of housing affordability in the years ahead.

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