Apartment Construction at a 10-Year High, Eases Pressure on Rental Prices in Booming Markets

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  • More than 320,000 new apartments projected to be completed in 2016, a 50% increase compared to 2015
  • Texas leads apartment construction, with more than 69,000 units projected to be delivered in 2016 in the Lone Star State’s 4 largest metros – Houston, DFW, Austin, and San Antonio
  • San Francisco makes great strides to solve housing shortage, bolsters rental inventory by 126% in 2016

The U.S. apartment market is booming in more ways than one. Rental rates are breaking record after record, with the national average at an all-time high of $1,213 in June and occupancy for stabilized and completed properties across the nation reaching 96.1% as of the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Intense Renter Demand, Favorable Demographics Drive Apartment Construction to Record Highs

As more and more people turn to renting — either by necessity, deterred from buying by increasing homeownership costs, or by choice as renting is more often associated with a flexible lifestyle — developers are determined to capitalize on this growing demand and fill skylines across the nation with construction cranes.

The rental market is firing on all cylinders, with over 1,400 large-scale projects under construction in the country’s biggest metros, our recent survey on the US apartment market shows. In the largest construction boom we’ve seen over the last decade, approximately 320,000 new apartments in 50+ unit buildings alone are expected to hit the market this year. That’s a whopping 50% increase from 2015 when approximately 200,000 units came online — and the highest point in five years of relentless inventory growth.

While apartment construction was rather tame in the aftermath of the Great Recession, 2012 saw rental markets across the country shooting up again — prompted by an ever-growing renter pool as well as vigorous job growth — with completions reaching a peak in 2015 and then an all-time high in 2016.


To see where new development is concentrated and identify the country’s multifamily boom towns in 2016 (i.e. metros that will see their rental inventories grow the most in terms of completions volume), we’ve turned to data from our sister company, Yardi Matrix, and examined construction pipelines in the 50 largest U.S. metros. Among the top 20 hottest metros for new apartment construction, the job-centric, millennial-magnet Texas hubs — Houston and Dallas — will see the largest number of new units added to their hungry rental markets in 2016.


Houston Leads the Pack as the U.S. Metro with the Most New Apartments to Hit the Market in 2016

Despite the weakening energy market, strong job gains in the leisure, hospitality, education, and healthcare sectors are keeping Houston’s job market vigorous, which in turn favors household formation.

Approximately 26,000 new apartments in 95 rental developments are projected to come online in the Greater Houston metro this year to meet the growing demand for rental housing. The largest apartment community to be completed in 2016 in Houston is Tate at Tanglewood with 431 units to be added to the Galleria/Uptown submarket, followed by Broadstone Energy Park, a 417-unit complex located less than a mile from Houston’s booming Energy Corridor.

Several properties operate under the Broadstone brand across Greater Houston and they all strive to deliver an enhanced living experience with amenities such as social lounges, pet playgrounds, fitness centers and massage rooms, zen courtyards, and lap pools that most often complement luxurious interiors.

Maps Units to be delivered in 2016 in Houston

Overall, Texas leads apartment construction this year, with more than 69,000 units projected to be delivered in the Lone Star State’s four largest metros: Houston, DallasFort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. This represents 22% of the total estimated increase in inventory across the 50 largest U.S. metros.

Apartment demand is expected to remain strong as more and more people flock into the area. In fact, Texas also tops the list of the fastest-growing metro areas, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. These four metros collectively added more people last year than any state in the country (approximately 412,000 new residents).

More Than 20,000 Units Slated to Come Online in Both New York and Los Angeles Metros

Trailing the Houston and Dallas mega hubs is the New York metropolitan area* with an almost equally impressive number of new units: 21,000 apartments projected to be completed this year. Greater LA isn’t far behind with 20,000 units slated for completion, followed by Washington, D.C., metro with about 18,000 units.

Units to be delivered in 2016 in LA

Austin, Seattle and the pearl of the Gold Coast, Miami, will each see their rental inventories expanding by more than 13,000 new units this year.

Also included in our top 20 metros for new apartment deliveries are metros like Atlanta, Denver, Charlotte, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, Orlando, Nashville, San Diego and San Jose.

1-Bedroom Units Dominate 2016’s Apartment Completions

One-bedrooms make up the biggest chunk (51%) of the rental stock projected to come online this year*. Studios rank lowest on developers’ preferences when it comes to bedroom distribution, holding about 4.7% of the new rental inventory. Two-bedroom units take 37.5%, whereas apartments with three bedrooms and more represent 6.8% of 2016’s new supply.


*only properties displaying floor plan information have been taken into account for the ‘bedroom distribution’ calculation, or approximately 65% of 2016’s planned deliveries.

New Construction Wave Helps Rents Cool Off in Some US Cities

The low inventory levels and increased demand have been the main culprits for the staggering rent growth over the last year. But the plethora of new rental units coming online may finally turn the tables in the renters’ favor: where there’s choice, there’s competition and, in this case, competition translates into concessions, lower rents, and a more relaxed housing landscape in general.

While average rent prices are indeed at an all-time high, the overheated rental market is starting to lose steam. Rent growth peaked at 6.3% at the end of 2014 but slowed to 5.6% in 2015, with a projected 4.4% increase by the end of 2016.

US Rent Growth 2012 - 2016

Some of the country’s most in-demand cities, including Denver, Houston, Washington, DC, and Boston have already begun seeing the effects of the expanding rental inventory, posting some of the smallest Y-O-Y rent increases in June 2016. Amid accounts of rising rents that paint a bleak rental picture for renters on the West Coast, Washington, DC, emerges as one of the country’s most stable markets.

Intensified construction activity over the last few years has kept the game of supply and demand in relative equilibrium, putting a drag on D.C.’s ever-growing rents. In fact, D.C.’s red-hot rental market has been cooling down over the past year: at 3.5%, D.C.’s rent growth year-over-year is much lower than the national average (5.6%).

The city proper will see the addition of about 5,100 new units this year — up 43% compared to 2015 when more than 3,500 apartments saw the light of day — furthering the prospect of an even more relaxed housing market in the near future.

The Barry Farms and Capitol Hill submarkets will see an explosion of new apartments this year, with some of 2016’s new communities already leasing. Park Chelsea at The Collective, touted as the “Capitol Riverfront’s next luxury apartment community”, comes with some exquisite amenities, including an 82-foot indoor lap pool, a yoga room, concierge services, and stunning views of the Capitol. Rents for a 585-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment start at $1,825 — not cheap but definitely cheaper than other booming rental hubs such as Manhattan, for example, where one-bedroom luxe pads go for as much as $4,400.

The huge supply increases and economic uncertainties accompanying the cuts in energy and mining jobs have brought Houston‘s rent growth to a halt in 2015. After giving renters some reasons to question affordability in 2014 when rent growth hit a worrying 8.4%, Houston rents increased only 3.6% in 2015, and are expected to slow down even more by the end of this year.


Many Apartment Communities Offer Concessions and Discounts Again

To attract tenants, many properties now offer attractive deals and incentives that include one or more months of free rent, free gym memberships, or free parking. Some go even further, bringing lifestyle-oriented benefits to the table (think smart watches, gift cards, discounts at local stores, and waived move-in fees) which often become deal-breakers for the so-called renters-by-choice, the target demographic cohort for many Class A properties.

An example of such a deal is Houston’s third SkyHouse apartment building which is currently under construction at 1725 Main Street in the city’s vibrant downtown area. SkyHouse Main is currently pre-leasing, with move-ins starting in August 2016 and two months of free rent for new tenants. Its sister tower at 1625 Main St. offers a preview of what residents can expect if choosing to live in a SkyHouse apartment. Among the many perks, the community features spacious units with hardwood floors, high ceilings, washers and dryers, and large closets, plus a pool and sundeck, a fitness center, a tennis court, and more.

Apartments for rent at SkyHouse Houston via Rentcafe

Another high-profile development, currently underway in South Miami, FL is JOYA. Leasing specials at this 431-unit community include reduced rates and a free month’s rent. Specifically tailored for young professionals, Joya offers some top-notch amenities, including an exclusive 3,000-square-foot 24-hour fitness center, a yoga studio, resident-reserved garage parking, and a resort-style pool with private cabanas.

Top Markets for Rent Growth Still not off the Hook, Strong Demand Keep Rents on Fire

As we’ve already pointed out, the heightened pace of construction is one of the factors that impact rent growth and can help rental markets cool down across the board. But, naturally, there are other factors affecting rental price evolution – jobs in particular. Job growth is actually one of the reasons why Dallas might not see the same decelerating rent trend as fellow Texan hub Houston. Though right on Houston’s tail when it comes to new construction and population increases, Dallas outshines Houston in employment growth, topping the nation’s job growth charts at 3.9% over the 12-month period ending in March. In fact, rents in the Big D show no signs of slowing down; prompted by a thriving job market and favorable demographics, Dallas prices are projected to rise an impressive 7.3% this year, making it the 4th hottest market for rent growth in 2016.

San Francisco Housing Shortage May Ease Up as Thousands of New Apartments Hit the Market, but is it Enough to Prevent Further Rent Hikes?

As one of the nation’s tightest markets, second only to Manhattan, San Francisco tests renters’ pockets on a monthly basis. Many have been priced out by the city’s sky-high rents and affordability becomes a major problem that stretches way beyond low-income households. Among the 11 largest metro areas, the San Francisco metro saw the sharpest decline in affordability to median renter households between 2006 and 2014, according to a recent report by NYU Furman Center/Capital One on Renting in America’s Largest Metropolitan Areas. In 2014, the median metro area renter could have only afforded 31% of recently available rental units.

However, the affordability picture may soon be starting to improve, with the good news coming in the form of increased supply; in 2016, San Francisco will see the addition of nearly 9,500 apartment units, the highest point of inventory growth in terms of sheer volume over the last 10 years and a 126% increase compared to 2015’s completions.


The apartment construction boom may indeed tame rents and give renters some room to breathe as new housing becomes available, yet this is not the kind of thing that happens overnight. In the meantime, San Francisco metro area renters will still be paying an eye-rolling $2,400/month on average, whereas those looking to rent in the city proper can expect to pay something north of $3,400/mo.


Apartment Construction Lags Behind in Sacramento, Putting even more Pressure on Rents

Meanwhile, the alarming lack of construction in some cities where demand is robust is only making matters worse for low- and moderate-income households. A recent report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that the number of cost-burdened renters reached 21.3 million in 2014, with a startling 11.4 million of these households paying more than half their incomes for housing.

If you’re a renter living in Sacramento for example, and you’re hoping to catch a break from rent growth, you might have to realign your expectations. Or at least know that relief won’t come from new apartment options overflowing the market. On the contrary, of the top 5 markets for projected rent growth this year, Sacramento will have the smallest number of new apartments added to its inventory in 2016, an unimpressive 730 units in large-scale developments. This actually represents a 30% decrease compared to 2015 when about 1,000 units hit the market.

Portland, on the other hand — though not excelling in new apartment deliveries compared to other large metros, and thus not making it to our Top 20 US Markets for New Apartments in 2016 list — is still marching full speed ahead in new construction, in an effort to keep up with pent-up demand. Approximately 5,000 new units are planned for delivery this year, a 20% increase compared to 2015’s completions (about 4,000 units).

Whether this new-supply pipeline will be enough to help rents moderate in 2017 is something that remains to be seen, as even with 2015’s expanding inventory, Portland rents have increased significantly over the last year. Portlanders have seen their average rent growing by $116 to $1,305 in the past year (9.8%). Studios go for $1,171, 1-bedrooms average $1,177, and two-bedrooms clock in at $1,314.

Estimated Completions in the Top 5 US Metros for Rent Growth in 2016 Graph

Apartment Supply in the 50 Largest U.S. Metros

Nr.Metro Apartment Supply
1Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX25,935
2Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX23,159
3New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA21,177
4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA20,205
5Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV18,027
6Austin-Round Rock Metro Area13,568
7Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA13,384
8Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL13,245
9Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA11,964
10Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO10,849
11Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC10,421
12San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA9,362
13Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ8,597
14Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI8,377
15Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 7,609
16San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX7,158
17Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL6,895
18Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN6,536
19San Diego-Carlsbad, CA6,002
20San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA5,866
21Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD5,700
22Salt Lake City, UT5,165
23Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA4,969
24Kansas City, MO-KS4,716
25Raleigh, NC4,280
26Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL4,161
27Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD3,967
28Pittsburgh, PA3,411
29Columbus, OH 3,353
30Oklahoma City, OK3,277
31Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN2,930
32Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN2,494
33Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA2,467
34Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI2,395
35Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 1,944
36Birmingham-Hoover, AL 1,906
37Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV1,812
38St. Louis, MO-IL1,789
39Richmond, VA 1,737
40Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT1,623
41Cleveland-Elyria, OH 1,388
42Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1,277
43Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI1,042
44New Orleans-Metairie, LA1,035
45Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,009
46Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 928
47Jacksonville, FL 757
48Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA 730
49Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 579
50Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 0

About RentCafe and How We Compiled the Data

RentCafe 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 the 50 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the US. The report is exclusively based on apartment data related to buildings containing 50 or more units. Building data was provided by Yardi Matrix, an apartment market intelligence source and RentCafe’s sister company which researches and reports on all multifamily properties of 50+ units across 121 markets in the United States.

Yardi Matrix tracks new multi-family development activity through a combination of primary research and secondary source reference. Information sources include: review of construction plans at city planning departments, contact with developers, contractors and architects associated with the project, and site visits. Results are reported under categories such as: “Completed” (inventory of all 50+ unit apartment communities currently operating in a market, regardless of rental status) or “Under Construction” (properties actively being developed). A property remains “Under Construction” until a final certificate of occupancy has been issued.

This analysis takes into account all the properties which have been completed between 2006 and 2016 or are under construction with a completion year projected to be 2016. We report on all types of properties including: affordable, age restricted, green buildings, student housing, military, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), mixed use, and high rise. The floorplan mix is currently available for 65% of all properties projected to be completed in 2016. The U.S. rent growth estimate for 2016 (4.4%) is sourced from Yardi Matrix research.

*New York City’s outer boroughs are not included in the New York metro data set.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to RentCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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