Rental Market

Apartment Construction in 2020 at 5-Year Low Nationally, Down 12% from Previous Year

Highlights:

  • Apartment construction is down by 12% compared to 2019, with around 283,000 new units expected to hit the market this year, considerably fewer than the 2018 peak.
  • The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex tops the charts for the third consecutive year, with more than 19,000 new apartments anticipated in 2020.
  • San Jose metro is expected to double the number of projected units added last year, while Miami sees the biggest drop in new apartments year-over-year.

With the Covid-19 pandemic further complicating an already visible slowdown in apartment construction since its 2018 peak, new completions across the country are starting to mirror the downward trend following the 2008 crisis. According to Yardi Matrix, 283,114 new apartments are expected to be completed this year, a significant drop of 12% compared to 2019. The data refers to rental apartments in large-scale buildings of 50 units or more.

The downtrend is mainly due to the slower pace of construction, as a result of a shortage of available construction crews, funding and permits, along with some temporary bans on construction projects in certain states. 2020 has been a difficult year for the apartment industry, with more than half of developers reporting delays in construction due to the pandemic. With projects dragging and some new projects hitting pause, many U.S. metros are likely to see fewer new apartments in the coming years. In some parts of the country, however, efforts to deliver more housing to address local demand are forging ahead. Although it’s too early to properly estimate how big the fallout from the pandemic will be for the apartment industry, the number of apartments expected this year is making the end of the decade boom look like a distant memory.

DFW metro to add more than 19,000 new units, most in the nation

Overshadowing New York metro yet again this year, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is first in terms of apartment construction, set to complete 19,318 new units by the end of 2020. In second place, New York metro is expected to see 15,952 new apartments this year, covering Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding suburbs. DFW metro’s population has been growing steadily, fueling the demand for housing, with 117,000 new residents between 2018 and 2019, according to the latest Census estimates. Meanwhile, the New York area population decreased by 60,000 in the same one-year period.

In third place, Houston metro is hot on its heels construction-wise, with 10,404 new projected deliveries for this year. As the metro saw a rise in demand from a population increase of 90,000 between 2018 and 2019, Houston is experiencing an energy-related downturn with a decline in oil-related jobs. Fourth in the top with most new apartments in 2020 is the Atlanta metro, planning to build 10,208 new units this year, an impressive number for an area of its size, ahead of Los Angeles, DC, Chicago and other larger metros.

Austin metro is fifth in the top for new construction and it is expected to add 9,342 new apartments by the end of the year. The popular Texas metropolitan area saw an increase of 62,000 residents from 2018 to 2019. In response to the high demand, Austin metro has been an active scene for new construction in the past five years, having completed over 50,000 new apartments since 2016.

The top 2 most competitive markets, DFW and NY metro have both built an impressive number of apartments in recent years. Although leading in 2016 and 2017, NY was surpassed by DFW in the past three years, with new apartments in the New York metropolitan area expected to total 15,952 this year, almost 3,000 fewer than in DFW.

13 of the most active large metros are seeing a slowdown in construction in 2020

Yet another indication of how slow construction has been this year, 13 of the 20 most active large metros are expected to complete fewer units compared to last year, while only 7 metros are projected to build more.

The San Jose metropolitan area is seeing the largest percentage increase in new apartments, doubling the number of new units delivered last year. Silicon Valley is adding 5,829 new apartments this year, yet a relatively low number for the giant tech hub. 

Next up is Boston metro, where they are expecting 30% more apartments this year, or a total of 8,709. However, the Greater Boston Area has been struggling with an affordable housing shortage for a while now. Home to almost 5 million people, the Boston area grew by 13,000 between 2018 and 2019.

Philadelphia metro closes the top three with an increase of 23%, expected to add 4,461 new apartments in 2020, an unimpressive number for a metro with a population of over six million people.

Conversely, the Miami metropolitan area is experiencing the biggest drop of 53% in construction projects, with only 5,840 new apartments set to open in 2020, which is significantly lower than last year’s 12,533. However, Miami has had four consecutive years of highly active apartment construction, totaling more than 50,000 new units between 2016 and 2020. Closely behind is Denver metro with a 51% drop, set to open 5,695 new apartments this year. However, the Mile High City is a popular place to live in and local developers remain optimistic that apartments will continue to be in high demand, according to The Denver Post.

While San Jose metro’s number of new units doubled since last year, Miami metro’s was almost cut in half

Both San Jose and Miami metro are expected to deliver almost the same number of units this year – 5,829 and 5,840, respectively. However, it is surprising to see that compared to last year, the South Bay area has been building considerably more, while Miami metro, home to over six million residents, has been building less than half of what it did in 2019 and in the previous three years.

Texas cities are most active for apartment completions in the first half of 2020

Confirmed completions at the city level in the first half of 2020 are showing yet again that Texan cities are the most active in the U.S. Austin is leading nationwide, with a total estimated number of 3,827 new apartments in the first six months of this year. The runner-up, San Antonio, saw 2,871 new units hitting the market in the first half of the year. Denver, CO closes out the top three with 2,434 new apartments.

An unexpected contender, Charlotte, NC has had a productive first half of the year, completing 2,269 new apartments. Brooklyn rounds up the top 5, having delivered 2,136, on par with Chicago, where 2,134 new apartments officially opened up since January.

Texas dominates the top 20 with three more cities – Houston (2,085), Dallas (1,869) and less known Farmers Branch in Dallas County (1,161). Notably, in Manhattan, a mere 1,398 new apartments have been confirmed as completed since the beginning of the year, less than in Columbus, OH.

Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix, shared his opinion in regards to the current state of apartment construction in the U.S.: “As the United States begins to recover from its steepest economic downturn in history, the construction industry is faced with unprecedented levels of uncertainty. How that uncertainty and broader macroeconomic conditions will affect the industry to date, and the shape of the recovery to come depends on multiple factors.

Around the U.S., we have seen a variety of states, counties, and cities choose to close nonessential businesses or “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders. For the most part, construction activity has been included as an essential activity that can continue with business as usual during these orders.

Construction starts have begun to increase from their April lows and there is cautious optimism that as the year progresses construction markets around the country will begin a modest recovery.”

Methodology

RENTCafé is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.

To compile this report, RENTCafe’s research team analyzed new apartment construction data across 99 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The study is exclusively based on apartment data related to buildings containing 50 or more units. Metros with less than 300 units or less than 2 properties/buildings were not included. 

The Bronx and Staten Island are not included in the New York metro data set.

Apartment data was provided by our sister company, Yardi Matrix, a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self-storage sectors.

Apartment projections for the year 2020 are calculated based on a Yardi Matrix proprietary algorithm, and it includes confirmed and likely completions for 2020 based on the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. Apartment projections are estimates and subject to change. Actual apartment completion dates depend upon a variety of factors and may change.

For data at city level, we included all the properties that have a certificate of occupancy issued between January 2020 and July 2020.

Data on population changes from 2018 to 2019 (as of July 1st) comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 7-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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