Multifamily lenders increased financing for apartments containing five or more rental units by 31% in 2010, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a new report Wednesday. The trade group says 2,548 multifamily lenders loaned $68.8 billion in mortgage financing for that particular market segment last year. The multifamily lenders who played the largest role in writing the  loans included Wells Fargo (WFC), CBRE Capital Markets Inc., Berkadia Commercial Mortgage LLC, PNC Real Estate (PNC) and Prudential Mortgage Capital Co. (PRU) "The multifamily lending market grew 31% in 2010, with credit extended by a broad range of lenders to a broad range of properties," said Jamie Woodwell, MBA's vice president of commercial real estate research. Comparatively, lenders in 2008 — the year of the financial market crash — provided only $88 billion in new financing for multifamily properties, a 40% drop from 2007, according to the MBA. Looking at just housing starts, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that housing starts shot up 15% in September, hitting 658,000 units, compared to August, and were up by more than 10% from a year ago. Permits for apartments with five or more units rocketed up by 53.4% over August and by 57.6% over the year-ago period, according to the data. The Commerce Department data shows 227,000 apartments with five or more units were started in September, up from 144,000 in the year-ago period. Write to Kerri Panchuk.