03/19/2013 – 11:54 AM EDT
WASHINGTON – New home construction rose in February and building permits climbed to the highest level in almost five years, adding to signs of progress in the housing market that’s helping boost the economy.
Builders broke ground on 917,000 homes at an annual rate, up 0.8 percent from a revised 910,000 pace in January that was higher than initially estimated, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday in Washington. Building permits, a proxy for future construction, advanced 4.6 percent to 946,000, the strongest since June 2008.
Confidence is being restored to the housing market as property values stabilize, the employment outlook brightens and mortgage rates hover around record lows. An easing of bank lending conditions would help bring home ownership within reach of more Americans and stoke bigger gains in home construction.