Housing prospects don't look good in the near term as multifamily starts fluctuate widely and single-family construction appears heading for a mild downturn, according to financial analytics firm Econoday. July housing starts rose 1.7% to 546,000 from June's revised figure of 537,000, which is the lowest level since October. The June revision and volatility in the multifamily component led to the monthly gain, according to Mark Rogers, senior economist at the Calif.-based research firm. Multifamily housing starts swung back to a gain of 32.6% for the month after a 33.3% decline in June while single-family starts fell 4.2% following a 1.7% drop the prior month. Meanwhile building permits fell 3.1% in July to 565,000 -- the lowest level since May 2009 and below analysts' estimates. "There are other indications that housing construction is not going to pick up much in the near term and could even head lower," Rogers said. "Months’ supply of both new and existing homes remains high. Also, the National Association of Homebuilders’ Housing Market Index has edged back toward the cycle low." Write to Jason Philyaw.