Not Enough Housing, Or Too Much of the Wrong Kind

Permits for new housing continue to lag despite a long economic boom. For coastal metros, it's a familiar story of job growth outpacing new construction. In some Sun Belt cities, sprawl is the bigger concern.

1 minute read

September 27, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Single Family Residential Construction

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A recent study of national housing construction trends "found that 38 percent fewer housing units were permitted nationwide in 2018 than in 2005, the year permits peaked before the recession," Sarah Holder writes. During the period from 2008 through 2018, pretty much every major U.S. metro area permitted less new housing per 1,000 residents than from 1990 through 2007.

A substantial rise in multi-family home construction occurred over the past decade, especially on the coasts. But that hasn't extended to the kind of missing-middle housing many advocates say is necessary to weather the housing crisis. "In 1990, almost 5 percent of all residential permits were for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, Apartment List found. By 2018, that share had dropped to 3 percent, while the average building size has doubled to 28.7 units."

Meanwhile, some Sun Belt cities are facing the opposite problem: they're creating more housing than jobs, "a dynamic that might say more about the clustering of economic development in coastal cities than the commitment to construction." Single-family home construction is predominant in many of those places, a bad sign for those who object to sprawl.

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