Housing starts rose a less-than-expected 1.7 percent in July while applications for building permits fell to their lowest level since May 2009, according to a report from The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Permits were down 3.1 percent from June and 3.7 percent from last year. Year-over-year, housing starts fell 7 percent. The drop in building permits coincides with a report from The National Association of Home Builders showing builder confidence at its lowest level since March 2009. David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said the report reflects the frustration builders are feeling regarding the effects foreclosed property sales are having on the new-homes market. Still, the NAHB feels that a combination of modest job gains, low mortgage rates, and pent-up demand will lead to a stronger housing market in the second half of 2010. More here, here, and here.