New Home Construction Plumments As Tax Credit Ends

An alarming, if entirely predictable, indication of the state of the housing market:

NEW YORK ( — New home construction fell sharply in May — the first month after a homebuyer tax credit expired — from a month earlier, according to a government report released Wednesday.

Housing starts fell 10% from April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 593,000 last month, the Commerce Department said. Economists were expecting housing starts to fall to only 655,000.

On a year-over-year basis, housing starts rose 7.8% from May 2009.

Building permits declined 5.9% to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 574,000 from April. Economists had anticipated a more modest decline to 631,000.

None of this should be surprising, of course. Just as last year’s “cash for clunkers” program provided an artificial stimulus to the new car market, followed by a collapse in sale when the program ended, the housing tax credit did little more than stimulate housing sales for the few months that it was in effect. Most likely, the people who bought during these months were going to buy anyone but simply choose to do it sooner to take advantage of what was, after all a very generous tax credit.Now that it’s no longer in effect, the housing market is returning to where it was before Congress started this little experiment.

This didn’t stimulate the economy, it distorted it.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    Not to mention that there’s millions of foreclosed homes already for sale.

  2. drew says:

    “This didn’t stimulate the economy, it distorted it.”

    As the most famous economics professor from my school once said: There’s no free lunch.