The latest numbers on the U.S. housing sector indicate continued expansion, but the market is beginning to exhibit growing pains.
According to the Commerce Department, builders began construction on new houses and apartments in July at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 units.
That’s up 6 percent from June, but the improvement reflected a 26 percent surge in construction of new APARTMENTS. In contrast, builders started 2.2 percent FEWER SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES which account for the vast majority of the market.
Analysts believe the decline in single-family construction is due, largely, to rising interest rates. The average rate on a 30-year mortgage stood at 4.4 percent this week - a full percentage point higher than in early May. And applications for new mortgages have fallen 15 percent since the end of April.
Sometimes, though, people are forced to build new homes. And that’s the case for some residents of an arid tinderbox formerly known as the American West. Fueled by multiple years of drought, more than 30 wildfires raged in 11 western states Friday, and weary firefighters tried desperately to get the upper hand.
Pat Pike / Fire Evacuee “The fire was coming around the end of the mountain here and it was just, I couldn't see anything because there was so much smoke.”
Thanks to persistent heat and dry conditions, wildfires are raging in the western U.S.Just after a fire in southern California caused hundreds to flee their homes last week, another emerged this week near Park City, Utah. Utah Governor Gary Herbert said over 4,000 acres have already been scorched.
Pat Pike / Fire Evacuee “We had a lot of people in tears, a lot of people scared. We sat there and watched the front side of the mountain, towards the lakeside, a lot of homes burning.”
Authorities are doing all they can to extinguish the flames. While resources are scarce, air tankers, helicopters, and single engine planes have been brought in to battle the inferno. Firefighters hope slow winds will aid in the containment of what they’re calling a rapid moving fire.
Mike Erickson / Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands “Homes are being threatened. The majority of those are in Rockport Estates, so honestly the reason we did the evacuation, they're all still threatened until we get the fire contained.”
Just north of “the Beehive State”, neighboring Idaho is facing a similar struggle. Two fires are burning in the mountainous region. The Elk Complex Fire in central Idaho has already burnt over 100 miles of brush, grass, and pine trees. Further south, the Pony Complex Fire has blackened nearly 200 miles of territory.
Like the wildfire in Utah, both Idaho fires were caused by a lightning strike. Authorities have imposed a mandatory evacuation of the communities of Pine and Featherville. Nevertheless, some residents have opted to stay home and watch over their property.