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Multifamily vs. single family

Since 2009 when the U.S. economy started to recover, housing starts (i.e. new residential construction) have favored multifamily buildings over single family housing. Apartment/condominium construction has grown 3 times faster according to the U.S. Census Bureau (via Bloomberg).


A lot of this multifamily construction is assumed to be rental apartments, but this category also includes for sale condominiums. The classification has to do with building typology rather than housing tenure. (I would love to see how the above graph breaks down in terms of the latter.)

The typical explanations for this trend often relate back to Millennials being poor and saddled with student debt. That’s why they’re delaying buying single family homes. But eventually the expectation is that they will resume doing

(largely) what previous generations have done.

Money and the economy, I’m sure, have something to do with the above trend. But I’m not convinced that it’s the whole story. 

There are also shifts happening with respect to consumer preferences and with respect to how we plan and build our cities. That’s why I’m very interested in monitoring family formations and housing choices. 

At the same time, I’m also a Millennial. And whenever I catch myself thinking a certain way, I assume that there are probably other Millennials out there who feel similarly.

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