From housing economist Tom Lawler: Single-Family Home Production in 2015: Small Number, Big Homes
At the beginning of June the Census Bureau released its annual report for 2015 on the characteristics of new privately-owned residential structures, including but not limited to square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of wall material, and sales prices. In terms of single-family homes completed last year, one of the more striking aspects of the report was the incredibly small number of modestly-sized single-family homes completed last year. Below is a summary of homes completed from 1999 to 2015 by square-footage ranges.
Of the estimated 648,000 single-family homes completed last year, just 136,000, or 21%, were homes with square footage of less than 1,800. The number of “moderately-sized” single-family homes completed in 2015 was little changed 2011, when overall single-family home completions hit at a “record” low. In sharp contrast, the number of homes with 3,000 or more square feet of floor area last year was up 76% from 2011’s level.
|Single-Family Homes Completed by Square Footage|
|Number of houses (in thousands) by square feet|
Here is a chart showing the historical median square footage of single-family homes completed.
It is a little difficult to compare the distribution of single-family homes completed in recent years relative to earlier decades, because Census has changed the square-footage ranges in its reports over time. However, from 1999 to 2007 there are data for both the “old” ranges and the “new” ranges, and by looking at some historical relationships one can approximate completions for various ranges over time, which I have done in the table below.
|Average Annual Single-Family Homes Completed by Square Feeet of Floor Area|
|(LEHC estimates based on Census data. Totals may not add up due to rounding).|
There have been numerous articles over the last year or two discussing some of the possible reasons for the dearth of construction of moderately-sized (and priced) single-family homes over the past few years, and I won’t today discuss the “why’s.” However, it seems highly unlikely that single-family starts (and completions) will move back up to more “historic” levels unless there is a rebound in the construction of “smaller,” and less expensive, homes.