The Census Bureau started tracking New Home sales in 1963, and the record low was 412,000 in 1982 - until that record was broken in 2009 - and then again in 2010 - and it looks another new record in 2011. (Source: Calculated risk)
Imagine in 1963 America's population was 186 million (a little more than half of today's), and the record low in new homes was 412k, and yet 2011 is shaping up to be a 303k -- 25% lower than in 1962 (peak of Cuban Missile crisis). The only bright aspect, it really cannot fall much more! For the sake of comparison -- population wise (this was also when the baby boom started) America with a population of 311 million needs to build 685k house just to be in the same percentage new home as in 1962 (for the sake of comparison from 2002 to 2006 more than 1 million new homes were sold). BTW in 2009 375k, 2010 323 and now 2011 is looking like 303 -- not a good trend at all, and a further indication that the housing problem is still very much with America.
Obviously all this data is backwards looking, but sometime it is important to consider not only the rate of change (or trend) but also the absolute number.