It's official: 2009 was the slowest year for new housing construction since the 1940s.  Builders pulled permits for only 36,209 housing units in 2009, according to the Construction Industry Research Board. That was a little more than half of the 64,962 housing starts in 2008, which had been the record post-war low.

The 2009 housing starts were composed of 25,046 single-family homes and 11,163 multi-family units. The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area had the most new homes with 6,681. In second place was Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale with 5,610, while San Diego was third with 2,989 units. Not one metro area experienced an increase in homebuilding activity in 2009 compared with 2008. The greatest slippage was in Merced, which saw housing starts drop from 473 in 2008 to 84 last year. During the mid-decade peak, local governments in Merced County often permitted about that many new units in one week.