Construction of Multifamily Housing Continues to Ramp Up

Construction of new multifamily housing increased to a 381,000 unit seasonally adjusted annual rate in January, as robust demand for rental housing and record prices of apartment buildings provide strong incentives to build new supply (first chart). Multifamily housing starts are running nearly four times the average pace during 2009 and 2010, prompting some fears of overbuilding.

A peek a bit further back in time, however, casts the recent trends in a bit different perspective. Multifamily starts averaged 300,000 between 1995 and 2007 (second chart). Unlike the single-family housing market, there was little or no overbuilding in the apartment sector during this period. In fact, construction of 300,000 units per year is roughly what is needed to keep pace with the rental demand of a growing population.

During the Great Recession, however, multifamily starts plunged far below the pace consistent with population growth. By 2013, the cumulative shortfall in apartment construction relative to population trends exceeded 600,000. The recent surge in construction is only beginning to fill this backlog. While there may be some local markets that will need time to digest the new supply, on a national basis the market shows few signs of excess supply.

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The Market Commentary blog on reit.com presents analysis of the macro- and micro-economic fundamentals impacting the REIT and commercial real estate industry. The Nareit economics team offers their commentary on the state of the market, the outlook for commercial real estate and breaking macroeconomic news. The opinions set forth here are solely those of its author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nareit or its membership. For more, see our Terms of Use.