Housing starts plummeted last month in every part of the country as the government's tight-money policies began to take hold, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.
Starts fell 14 percent to an annual rate of 1.518 million units, with single-family housing by far the hardest hit. Building permits dropped an even sharper 18 percent to a level more than 500,000 units below the rate only two months ago.
"This is for real now," declared Michael Sumichrast, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. "It's going down, and it's going down rapidly."
Separately, Commerce said personal income rose by $21.3 billion in November, the largest increase since midsummer, to an annual rate of $1,999 trillion.
Personal outlays, which Commerce recently began estimating on a monthly basis, rose $27.3 billion to an annual rate of $1.626 trillion. But after various tax and social insurance payments, disposable personal income went up only $16.9 billion in November. That meant that consumers had to dip into savings at a $10.4 billion annual rate to spend as much as they did, the department said.
The department said the personal consumption expenditure deflator rose 0.9 percent in October, the same rate as in September. By comparison, the consumer price index rose 1.0 percent in October and 1.1 percent in September.
The NAHB's Sumichrast said the dismal November housing starts figures "underestimate the difficulties we are having." Sales are just simply bad because "potential buyers are demoralized" by the difficulties they are having finding mortgage money and by its high cost, he said.
Jay Janis, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, declared "this is a clear indication that the policies of the Federal Reserve have impacted the housing market." The board's data on mortgage loan commitments by savings and loan associations around the country "indicate that housing starts will not improve in the near future," he added.
In the Washington metropolitan area, about 23,000 housing units were begun in 1978 and slightly more than 20,000 are expected to have been started this year. Area builders now expect starts to drop to the neighborhood of 16,000 units in 1980, 20 percent less than during this year.
Separately, the Housing and Urban Development Department said it plans to ask Congress to update standby authority for dealing with recessionary slumps in housing.
The request to Congress could lead to an increase in the limits on mortgage values, sales prices and interest rates in the Emergency Home Purchase Assistance Act of 1974.
Jack Carlson, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said the severity of the monetary squeeze "can be seen by looking at the current monthly payment of $492 that is necessary to satisfy the principal and interest costs on a 90 percent mortgage on a median-priced existing home" that now costs $56,300."Just 12 months ago the principal and interest payment on a median-priced home was $396," with the home costing $50,000. "Thus carrying charges have increased by 24 percent" in a year, he said.