Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A look behind the headline housing starts report for the United States

As discussed in yesterday's post on residential construction, today's report on US housing starts indeed showed significant improvements.


However, this is only part of the story. The number of housing starts for single-family units remains to a large extent range-bound (see chart). A great deal of the new housing growth instead is coming from multi-family construction (see chart). And that's driven by the rapidly rising demand for rental housing in the US, as shortages become more pronounced (see post). Rental vacancies are now at the lowest level in 17 years and falling.

This demand is also visible in the latest report on inflation, which came out today as well. Rent expenses are now growing considerably faster than the CPI as well as US wages - a dangerous trend.

Rent inflation vs. Core CPI

The trend of rental units dominating housing starts growth is likely to continue as homeownership rates decline. Adequate supply of new multifamily housing will be critical in years to come.


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