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Developers press on with apartment building as would-be homeowners rent instead

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Construction workers pass planks of wood during the construction of new apartments.

Supply chain issues and rising labor costs make it hard to get new apartment buildings on the market. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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It’s not a great time to build single-family homes. So said Monday morning’s release of the National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index, which, for the eighth straight month, logged a decline in builders’ confidence, blaming high interest rates and construction costs. 

But single-family is only part of the housing market — apartment building is kind of booming. Over 800,000 apartment units are estimated to be under construction this year, a 40-year high.

Part of the reason developers are still building apartments? 

Well, there’s a glut of renters who would be homeowners if a down payment in 2022 didn’t require a winning Powerball ticket. 

“There’s a large number of households who need a place to live, who are remaining longer or seeking out the rental housing market,” said Rob Dietz, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders. 

That renter backlog means higher demand, higher rents and higher returns on investment in new apartment projects. 

And those projects are mostly located in the places everyone seemed to move to at the peak of the pandemic, said Caitlin Sugrue Walter with the National Multifamily Housing Council. 

“So Texas has a lot of new construction, other areas of the Southeast as well,” she said.

Think the suburbs of Dallas and Atlanta, less so downtown San Francisco. 

But getting those apartments on the market isn’t so easy. It’s taking forever to find the labor and materials to finish them. 

“Supply chain issues as well as the rising costs of inputs to multifamily housing are causing multifamily buildings to be under construction for a longer time period,” said Emily Hamilton. She researches housing at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. 

The longer and more expensive it is to build apartments, the higher the monthly rent. 

Nationally, rents are up 12% from 2021, according to Apartment List.

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