NAHB forecasts 20% growth in starts

Orlando, Fla. -- The annual Housing and Economic Outlook at the 2011 International Builders' Show had some relatively good news for attendees.

A disappointing 2010 is expected to serve as a platform for a take off in 2011, according to David Crowe, chief economist and senior VP at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Crowe and the NAHB forecast 708,000 total housing starts this year, up about 20% from an estimated 589,000 in 2010. The NAHB expects single-family housing starts to increase 21% to 575,000.

Crowe pointed to housing affordability, demographic forces and pent-up demand as three key factors that will affect growth residential construction. "It's only so long that a 30-year old can live in his mom's basement," he said.

Crowe's forecast was backed by a second economist on the panel, Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac. Nothaft sees the economy as "strengthening and accelerating" in 2011. The Freddie Mac economist also forecast unemployment to finish 2011 at the 9.0% level, down from the current 9.4%.

Disruptive weather prevented a third economist, David Berson of the PMI Group, from arriving in Orlando in time for the session.