Japan's housing starts plunged 44.0 percent in September, the sharpest fall on record, to 63,018 units as confusion and procedural delays over stiffer building regulations weighed on the housing market, the government said Wednesday.

The dive represents the third consecutive year-on-year fall, following August's 43.3 percent plunge and July's 23.4 percent drop.

Starts on owner-occupied houses fell 21.6 percent in September from a year earlier to 25,431 units for the eighth consecutive month of decline, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said.

Starts on rental homes slumped 51.3 percent to 22,749 units for the third straight month of decline.

Construction starts nosedived 55.6 percent to 14,531 units for houses for sale, including those for condominiums, which plunged 74.8 percent to 5,328 units.

Housing starts fell nationwide in September, with the greater Tokyo area, including central Tokyo's 23 wards, posting the steepest regional fall of 54.2 percent.

The decline in Tokyo was followed by a 48.0 percent fall in the Kinki region including Osaka, and a 36.7 percent drop in the Chubu region surrounding Nagoya, the ministry said.

The government tightened building standards in June following a public outcry over a spate of scandals involving the fabrication of earthquake resistance data.

While government officials stress that sharp falls in housing starts have not slowed demand itself, economic and fiscal policy minister Hiroko Ota warned earlier this month that an extended decline in housing starts may eventually hurt Japan's gross domestic product.