WASHINGTON — Builders broke ground on more new homes last month, giving the weak U.S. housing market a slight boost at the start of the spring buying season. By Scott Olson, Getty ImagesA multi-family condominium project is under construction March 16, 2011 in Des Plaines, Illinois. Enlarge   By Scott Olson, Getty Images A multi-family condominium project is under construction March 16, 2011 in Des Plaines, Illinois.   Home construction rose 7.2% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted 549,000 units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 11.2% after hitting a five-decade low in February.   Still, the building pace is far below the 1.2 million units a year economists consider healthy. And March ’ s improvement came after construction fell in February to its second-lowest level on records dating back more than a half-century. Millions of foreclosures have forced home prices down. In some cities, prices are half what they were before the housing market collapsed in 2006 and 2007. And more foreclosures are expected this year. Tight credit has made mortgage loans tough to get. Many would-be buyers who could qualify for loans are reluctant to shop, fearing prices will fall further. A sign of the battered industry is the number of new homes finished and ready to sell dropped in March to a seasonally adjusted 509,000 units, lowest on records dating back to 1968. And the number of homes now under construction has fallen to a four-decade low. Starts on single-family homes, which make up roughly 80% of home construction, rose 7.7% in March. Apartment and condominium Advertisement

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