Housing remains on shaky ground

Homebuilders are looking for a sign of hope when new construction numbers are released Thursday by the Commerce Department.

The pace homes are being built has been inching along at a level that is considered unhealthy, experts say.

New home construction is “nearly comatose,’’ Andres Carbacho-Burgos of Moody’s Analytics told the Wall Street Journal. “Homebuilder confidence will start to improve only if there is a solid recovery in the housing market.”

The problem

New single-family homes, the bulk of the market, have dropped 11 percent, according to the Associated Press. Builders are competing with foreclosures that have forced existing home prices down.

In some cities, prices are half of what they were before the housing market collapsed in 2006 and 2007.

Georgia ranks sixth in the nation in foreclosure filings, according to a recent report by RealtyTrac.

Foreclosure notices for metro Atlanta rose 22 percent in May from April, based on Equity Depot data. Gwinnett County (1,971) had the highest number among the core metro counties for the 14th month in a row.

Where the other counties rank in foreclosure notices last month:

Fulton: 1,804

DeKalb: 1,472

Cobb: 1,152

Clayton: 791

Why it matters

Fewer new homes built mean fewer jobs.

Each new home creates an average of three jobs a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Looking ahead

This year could end with fewer new homes built than last year and only slightly more than 2009. And those two years benefited from a temporary home-buying tax credit, which has ended.

To put this into perspective, “a doubling of [new home] from here would still put starts at the lowest level of any other recession,” Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., told the Associated Press.

--Compiled by Rick Crotts

Sources: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and staff reports