If you live in a major U.S. city and look out over the skyline, chances are good you’ll see construction cranes. Lots of them. Only twice in the past 25 years have new apartment buildings been going up as fast as they are right now. That’s not necessarily a good omen. The first time, in February 2000, was right before the dot-com bubble burst. The second time, January 2006, came right before the housing bubble burst. Now we learn that builders broke ground on 423,000 new multifamily units in July, right before … who knows what?
Monthly building data released earlier this week by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that new home construction overall posted strong gains in July, with the highest number of new home starts in eight months. The comeback largely manifested in an uptick in apartment buildings with five or more units, which saw an almost 50 percent increase in new starts in July over a year earlier. By comparison, starts on single-family homes were up only about 10 percent over the same period.
That’s part of the reason that the Northeast, with its large, dense cities, saw the biggest monthly increase, up 44 percent from June. That matches the analysis by Trulia (TRLA) Chief Economist Jed Kolko, who found that among metro areas, Boston and New York are building more than in the past.