By Diana Olick, CNBC Real Estate Reporter NEW YORK ( CNBC) --The numbers are in, the analysts are out, and given the volatility of this particular economic indicator, the spin is at full speed: "Good News on Housing Permits More Than Offsets the Bad News on Starts"-- HIS Global Insight "Housing Starts Decline Again" - Capital Economics "March Multifamily Starts Down; Permits Continue Upward Trend"-- KBW "March Construction Numbers Aren't As Bad as They Look"-- Trulia.com "Housing Starts Lacking Consumer Confidence" -- Sageworks Inc. Here's the problem: We are living a tale of two housing markets, single and multi-family. Depending on what kind of builder or investor you are, you're going to see the housing starts numbers differently. Let's weed through it first:
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"Single family is more of a restocking issue," said Morgan Stanley's Oliver Chang on CNBC. "In order to meet baseline demand, they
builders have to build." Chang says real growth in single family demand just isn't there, due to a still tightening credit market. On the flip side, he claims that distressed housing has stabilized and distressed home prices have bottomed; that's because investors largely use cash. So if there's all this demand for single family rentals, and investors are rushing to get in, is there still enough demand for all this multi-family construction? "Bottom line, with the secular decline in home ownership, multi-family construction will be where it's at for a few years but still only make up about 30% of total starts. Single family starts still have the intense competition with foreclosures and now rent seekers," writes Peter Boockvar of Miller Tabak. So why, as we asked Monday after the disappointing builder sentiment report, did single family starts, permits and sentiment rise through the fall and the winter only to slam on the breaks? Newport calls that one a "head scratcher," and adds, "If the builders have gotten ahead of the game, single-family construction will go through a demoralizing slowdown later this year." -- Written by Diana Olick at CNBC.