Housing starts fell 1.9 percent in 2002 to 1,151,016, the lowest figure in 19 years, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said Friday.

It was also the second consecutive year of decline.

The ministry attributed the slide to weakness in starts of owner-occupied homes, especially those funded by government loans, and a dip in starts of condominiums and ready-made houses for sale.

Starts of owner-occupied houses fell 4.9 percent to 367,974 units, marking the third consecutive year of decline, the ministry said.

Among starts for owner-occupied dwellings, those funded by loans from the Government Housing Loan Corp. plummeted 55.3 percent to 56,362, down for the third straight year.

The decline followed a 40.2 percent drop to 126,105 units in 2001.

Starts of houses and condominiums for rent increased 2.7 percent to 450,092 units, marking the second straight yearly rise.

But starts of houses and condos for sale fell 4.4 percent to 323,942 units, falling for the second consecutive year.

In December, housing starts fell 3.4 percent from a year earlier to 92,184 units, marking the second consecutive monthly decline.

Starts of owner-occupied houses fell 1.2 percent to 27,922 units, marking the seventh straight monthly dip. Starts on houses for rent slid 3 percent to 37,244 units, down for the second consecutive month.

December starts on houses and condominiums for sale dropped 6.6 percent to 26,228 units, down for the second month in a row.

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