Unseasonably warm weather helped elevate last month's total housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.64 million units, according to figures recently released from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. The December construction pace was up 4.5 percent from November but down 18 percent from a year ago. Single-family starts decreased 24.7 percent from December 2005, to a rate of 1.23 million units, while starts for multifamily construction rose 3.6 percent to a rate of 350,000.<br /><br />As buying conditions improve, home builders are reducing their inventory levels before starting new single-family homes, according to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) report. "The improvement in market conditions, coupled with the drop in single-family housing starts, indicates that builders are working to control their inventories and positioning themselves for the upcoming spring buying season," said NAHB President David Pressly.<br /><br />The construction pace for single-family housing units declined across the nation in December, falling 26.4 percent in the Midwest, 26.3 percent in the South, 23.5 percent in the West, and 14 percent in the Northeast.