Permits to build new single-family homes rose 2.6 percent In June, though overall permits were down 4.2 percent. The increase in authorizations to build new homes was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing report. The estimates, released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, showed housing starts down 9.3 percent overall, with a significant drop in the South. Housing starts – which measure the number of new homes that began construction during the month – were up in the West, Northeast, and Midwest. Economists could not explain why starts dropped so dramatically in the South, though they believe they will rebound in July. The rising number of building permits for single-family homes, on the other hand, is one of several recent improvements, including increasing builder confidence and new home sales, that indicate future gains in residential construction and the market for new homes.