HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) – Housing starts increased 6 percent between fourth quarter 2008 and the same in 2009, according to a Metrostudy report released Wednesday.

 Builders started 4,576 homes last quarter and closed on 6,323. There were 12,164 inventory homes either finished or under construction in the Houston area in December.

 However, there were still 65,925 vacant lots ready for development at the end of 2009. That translates to a 42.3-month supply, well above Metrostudy’s idea of a healthy market equilibrium range of 20 to 24 months.

 Builders are expected to develop and sell between 18,000 and 20,000 homes in 2010. Starts and closings in 2009 totaled 18,687 and 22,902, respectively.