US homebuilders request most permits in more than 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders requested the most permits in March for single-family homes and apartments in 31⁄2 years, suggesting that many expect the housing market to improve over the next year.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 747,000 in March. That’s the highest level since September 2008.

The rise in permits helped offset a slower month of construction.

Builders broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 654,000 homes last month. That’s down 5.8 percent from February. Apartment construction, which can fluctuate sharply from month to month, fell nearly 20 percent. Single-family homebuilding was mostly unchanged.

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