Many analysts are digging into the causes of low housing supply in order to reverse engineer solutions that will be effective and valuable. In this piece, FreddieMac takes a deep dive into the consequences...
Consider this: from 1968 to 2008, a span of 40 years, there was only one year in which fewer new housing units were built than in 2017 (Exhibit 1)—and this despite rising demand in a growing economy.
In a recent Insight, we examined the demand side of the housing market, focusing particularly on the experiences of young adults. Our research shows that housing costs have been the most significant factor preventing young adults from forming their own households as well as buying a house. Robust demand but weak supply has driven up housing prices rapidly, which in turn is acting as a force to balance demand against supply. Facing higher home prices and rents, many young people are doubling up in shared living arrangements or living at home with their parents.
In our earlier Forecast, we discussed two main reasons for the lower levels of housing production (relative to population): increase in development costs and shortage of skilled labor.
Home building costs encompass the cost of land and regulatory costs. Since 2010, the cost of land has averaged about 23 percent of total home building expenses.1 But in some markets like San Jose, Santa Ana, Oakland, and Los Angeles, land can cost upward of 70 percent of the cost of building a home. Laws and regulations such as local zoning restrictions on lot sizes and building height and open space designations also increase the cost of building a home, in turn reducing the supply of new homes. Regulatory costs increased 29 percent between 2011 and 2016, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates.
On the labor side, the U.S. construction industry is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. The count of unfilled jobs in the construction industry reached post-Great Recession highs in 2018, the NAHB reports. (See our previous Forecast).
However, other factors are constraining the supply of housing, as well. Opposition to new developments near homes and communities by residents—so-called NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard)—is restricting new construction in some locales. With young adults flocking to urban areas from suburban or rural areas, housing demand in urban areas is growing, but it takes time to construct housing to accommodate the growing demand
After nearly a decade of low levels of building, housing stock is well short of what the United States needs. In this Insight, we focus on the consequences, rather than the causes. Our analysis shows that 370,000 fewer units were built in 2017 than needed to satisfy demand. Overall, the shortfall ranges from a low of 0.9 million to a high of 4.0 million housing units, as of the second quarter of 2018, depending on the assumptions (see discussion later in this Insight). If supply continues to fall short of demand, home prices and rents are likely to outpace income and household formation will fail to reach potential. The inadequate level of U.S. housing supply is a major challenge facing the housing market in 2018 and likely for years to come.Read More