Multifamily completions in buildings with 50 or more units continues to climb

NAHB’s analysis of Census data shows this trend can be dated back to the mid-1990s. 

October 06, 2015 |
Data says completions in buildings with 50 or more units continues to climb square apartments richmond

The Square Apartments complex in Richmond, Va., was under consturction in 2014. Photo: Eli Christman/Creative Commons.

The Census Bureau estimates that 255,600 multifamily housing units were completed in 2014 in buildings with at least five or more units, representing a 37.3% increase over the previous year and the highest total in those multi-unit structures since 2009.

And now an analysis of Census data by the National Association of Home Builders finds that, over the past five years, the number of completions in buildings with 50 or more units has continued to climb to where it hit 48% of total completions last year.

NAHB economist Robert Dietz notes that this trend toward larger multifamily buildings has been evident since 1996 (see chart below), after reaching a data series low of 8% in 1994 and 1995, and retrenching in 2009 and 2010 as a result of the housing recession.

Dietz also observes that completions in buildings with 20 or more units have been “well above” 50% since 2001, and accounted for 83% of the total last year.

Conversely, multifamily completions in units with nine or fewer units accounted for a relatively insignificant share of total construction last year. This would suggest that Census might need to rethink how it publicly reports its housing data, which to this point only show starts and completions for buildings with “five or more” units.

It’s worth noting, however, that multifamily construction activity in general appears to be peaking. For August, Census’s preliminary estimate for annualized completions in structures with five units or more stood at 283,000, up 0.4% from August 2014. And multifamily starts were actually down by 2.3% to 381,000.

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