Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's Time to Build More Housing!

The Mortgage Corner

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) analysis of Census Construction Spending data shows that total private residential construction spending is soaring, as it rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of $520.9 billion in August, 0.5 percent up from downwardly revised July estimates.

But that’s not enough housing to satisfy current demand. There will be plenty of housing to replace, however, after this hurricane season has devastated so many U.S. states and territories.


It was the fourth consecutive monthly increase after a dip in April, said the NAHB, Hurricane Harvey that made landfall late in August did not have significant impacts on construction spending in the same month, but will have a huge impact in months to come, as I said. The total private residential construction spending was 11.7 percent higher than a year ago. However, the blue line in the graph that represents residential construction spending still lags far behind commercial (red) and home improvement construction (gray lines).

The Midwest region is currently hurting the most from a housing shortage. Marketwatch’s Andrea Riquier reports the Home Affordability Index from real estate data provider Attom Data Solutions edged down to 100 in the third quarter, the lowest level since the third quarter of 2008, which was just as the financial crisis was taking hold.

Affordability is a problem because incomes haven’t risen as much as housing prices (especially in the Midwest). Attom notes that median home prices have risen 73 percent since bottoming out in 2012, while average weekly wages have increased only 13 percent in that time.

Why such a housing shortage so late in this recovery? For starters, the number of existing-homes listed for sale in 2017 to date is the lowest since 1999, according to the NAR. That’s in part because distressed sales volumes have fallen from more than 100,000 a month at the peak of the post crisis period, 2009-2012, to about 25,000 today, which means there aren’t many cheaply-priced homes left over from the housing crash.

And the construction industry because of a labor shortage has yet to catch up to soaring demand from a fully employed economy. More than half of the 3.5 million construction workers were laid off during the recession, and replacements are hard to find in this now fully employed economy.

Harlan Green © 2017

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