COVID-19

Home construction is surging, but it’s leaving out struggling renters

Mitchell Hartman Aug 18, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Even with the surges in homebuilders' confidence and some construction metrics, there is still an affordable renting housing crisis. Al Bello/Getty Images
COVID-19

Home construction is surging, but it’s leaving out struggling renters

Mitchell Hartman Aug 18, 2020
Even with the surges in homebuilders' confidence and some construction metrics, there is still an affordable renting housing crisis. Al Bello/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY


The National Association of Home Builders index hit a 35-year high this month — driven by low mortgage rates and strong demand for single-family homes in the suburbs and beyond. Meanwhile, U.S. home construction surged 22.6% in July, rebounding from a pandemic lull.

On the flip side, new construction for renters — which is to say, multi-family apartment buildings — is down in the pandemic.

Apartment market tracking firm RENTCafé predicts apartment construction will be down 12% from 2019 to the lowest level in five years.

Economist Robert Dietz at the National Association of Home Builders says that’s not good news for low- to middle-income renters who’ve suffered the most job losses in the pandemic.

“We still have an affordable rental housing crisis,” Dietz said.

Where apartment building continues to boom is places like Silicon Valley, Atlanta and Dallas, said Doug Ressler at RENTCafé’s parent company, Yardi Matrix.

“Tech centers, tech hubs — white-collar people that want to rent as lifestyle can work from home in terms of remote access,” Ressler said.

Going forward, Dietz predicts builders will put up fewer high-rises in dense urban areas and more suburban townhouses, where renters can social distance in the pandemic.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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