Housing starts increased from December to start off 2010, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said. In its monthly report (download here) the Census Bureau and HUD said privately owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000 in January, that’s up 2.8% from December’s revised estimate of 575,000 and 21.1% higher than January 2009’s rate of 488,000. December’s rate was originally estimated at 557,000, a decline of 4% from November’s revised estimate of 580,000. Single-family housing starts were at a rate of 484,000 in January, up 1.5% from December’s revised rate of 477,000. The January rate for buildings with five units or more was 100,000. Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 621,000, down 4.9% from December’s unrevised rate of 653,000 and 16.9% above January 2009’s estimate of 531,000. Building permits in December jumped 10.9% from the revised November rate of 589,000, as builders look to build inventory in preparation of the spring selling months and the looming April 30 deadline for buyers to sign a contract and be eligible for the homebuyer tax credit. Single-family building permits were at a rate of 507,000 in January, up 0.4% from December’s revised rate of 505,000. Permits for buildings with five or more units were at a rate of 96,000 in January, down 26% from December’s revised rate of 130,000. Privately owned housing completions were at a rate of 659,000 in January, down 12.4% from December’s revised estimate of 752,000 and 15.3% below the January 2009 rate of 778,000. The original estimate for December was 768,000, an 11.2% decline from November’s revised estimate of 865,000. Single-family completions in January were at a rate of 427,000, 12.9% below the revised December rate of 490,000. Completions for buildings with five or more units were 215,000, down 11% from the revised December rate of 242,000. Write to Austin Kilgore.