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Housing starts in fiscal 2009 ended in March slipped below 800,000 units for the first time since 1964, hit by sluggish demand exacerbated by the global economic slump, the infrastructure ministry said Friday.

Starts fell 25.4 percent from a year earlier to 775,277 units in the reporting year, the sharpest rate of decline since the 1974 oil crisis, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said.

The ministry attributed the weakness to stagnant employment and income, as well as ongoing inventory adjustments in the condominium market.

While the housing market has recently shown signs of recovery due in part to mortgage tax breaks, the ministry said, “The situation will remain uncertain for some time to come.”

Starts on condos marketed by property developers plunged 59.1 percent to 67,382 units, while those for single-family houses fell 10.6 percent to 95,294 units, both plumbing lows not seen since fiscal 1985.

By region, starts fell 25.9 percent in the Tokyo area, 29.0 percent in the Chubu region around Nagoya, and 23.1 percent in Osaka and surrounding areas.

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