House construction at a standstill in South Florida

New housing construction has all but stopped in South Florida – leaving one of the region's major pools of employment bone dry – as banks have cut off loans for new projects, builders worked to sell off existing homes and buyers largely sat on the sidelines.

Real estate analysts and even home builders aren't discouraged, however. They say a freeze must precede a thaw, welcoming the slowdown in new building in a region that was grossly overbuilt during the housing boom.

The numbers, culled from the first three months of 2009 and reported Monday by Metrostudy, a national housing market research firm: In Miami-Dade, construction was started in the first three months of the year on a scant 43 single-family homes. Builders in Broward started only two new condos.

That near-cessation in new building is necessary for a housing market with a huge backlog of unsold homes to climb back on its feet, real estate analysts insist.

"No starts are good starts right now," said Adam Greenberg, managing director with BayBridge Real Estate, a Miami-based consultancy. "That is really what we need to get the absorption out of the way and stabilize the market. No matter how much housing policy you have, none of it will work if you keep flooding the market with units. This will start bringing value to existing units."

Another set of numbers, released Monday by The National Association of Realtors, brought positive news, analysts say. The monthly pending home sales index, which tracks signed contracts for home purchases, rose 3 percent in March from February's and was up 1 percent from the same month a year ago.

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