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Newsmakers

Multifamily Housing Lifts March Construction Starts

April 19, 2018

Multifamily housing construction is paving a promising path for overall housing starts, following a National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) report this month that showed a 1.9% increase from February. Although the bigger picture was described as a “small gain,” multifamily construction jumped 14.4%—a high that hasn’t been seen in more than a year.

On April 17, one day after the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) showed a slight dip in builder confidence, NAHB Chairman Randy Noel clarified in another report that builders are still optimistic. Noel noted that single-family housing starts saw a modest decline in March but were up 5% in permits year-over-year. Meanwhile, permits for multifamily starts reached 19%, raising overall permit issuances 2.5% last month.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said the decline in single-family housing was most likely caused by production delays because of the winter weather.

“With ongoing job creation, wage increases and rising household formations, we can expect continued, gradual strengthening of the housing market in the coming months,” Dietz said in the report.

The Midwest saw the most combined single- and multifamily housing starts and permit issuance. While production decreased in the southern and western regions, permits declined in the northeast.

-Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

Builder Confidence Still High Despite April Decline

April 16, 2018

Builder confidence has slowed yet still remains in positive territory, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Confidence for newly-built single-family homes slipped one point in April to a reading of 69. This is the fourth-straight drop in the index, stated a release from Wells Fargo Securities.

Despite the solid outlook for the rest of the year, “builders are facing supply-side constraints, such as a lack of buildable lots and increasing construction material costs. Tariffs placed on Canadian lumber and other imported products are pushing up prices and hurting housing affordability,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel in a release.

Regional averages also saw optimism take a step back this month. “While weather is behind part of the pullback in the HMI, all four regions have posted declines on a 3-month moving average basis,” added Wells Fargo. The index has been “out of kilter” in part due to hurricanes last fall, noted Wells Fargo. While the South was unchanged at 73, the Northeast dropped one point to 55, the Midwest fell two points to 66 and the West declined three points to 76.

Buyer traffic barely stayed inside positive territory at 51. Sales expectations in the next six months decreased one point to 77, and current sales dropped two points to 75, both well above the teetering point of good conditions.

-Michael Miller, managing editor

Construction Spending Forecasted to Increase in 2018

April 13, 2018

Construction spending is expected to outpace its 2017 rate this year, according to the FMI Construction Outlook 2018 First Quarter Report. The forecast predicts engineering and construction spending to end 2018 up 7% in the U.S. compared to 4% last year.

Among the more favorable segments (with 5% or more of growth expected this year) were single-family, office, commercial, education and communication. Stable growth (0% to 4%) included multifamily and manufacturing. Segments with 0% to -5% of predicted stability or decline included water supply and sewage and waste disposal. Residential improvements are expected to lead the way at a growth rate of 12% in 2018, according to FMI.

FMI expected much of the total construction spending put in place between 2017 and 2022 to occur in the Northeast, Florida, Texas and along the Pacific Coast, with several large metropolitan statistical areas scattered throughout the U.S., e.g., Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta.

Single-family, multifamily and improvements are forecasted to continue their positive trajectory to 2022. Within nonresidential construction put in place, lodging, office and commercial are predicted to continue upward momentum to 2022. However, both residential and nonresidential construction put in place are expected to slow to 4% and 3% growth, respectively, by 2022.

-Michael Miller, managing editor

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