Home building rose 8.9 percent in November to an annualized rate of 574,000, the U.S. Commerce Department announced Wednesday.

The rate was still 12.4 percent below what it was in November 2008, but the increases were nationwide, with the Northeast leading the trend with housing starts rising 16.4 percent. Housing starts rose 12.3 percent in the South, 3 percent in the Midwest and 1.9 percent in the West.

Analysts attributed the increase to the extension and expansion of the home buyer’s tax credit. David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, is cautiously optimistic. “The new credit will have an impact as we move into 2010 and consumers plan for that credit availability, and builders begin to answer expected demand in the spring,” he says.

In another measurement of the industry’s strength, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed, have risen for nine consecutive months. Pending home sales were up 3.7% in October compared to September, and up 31.8% compared with October 2008.
Congress recently extended a tax credit for home buyers, giving first-time buyers until April to claim an $8,000 tax credit. Those who have owned a home for five consecutive years can claim a $6,500 credit for a new home purchase.

“The tax credit is helping unleash a pent-up demand from a large pool of financially qualified renters, much more than borrowing sales from the future,” said Lawrence Yun, the association’s chief economist.