Housing Shortage Likely Coming

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – June 13, 2011 – Within the next decade, 16 million new housing units will be needed to meet population growth and shifting demands, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in its latest annual “State of the Nation’s Housing” report.

That means household growth, which has dropped drastically in recent years, will need to greatly reverse its trend to meet the forecasted spike in demand. From 2007-2010, household growth averaged about 500,000 per year – less than half the 1.2 million annual pace averaged prior from 2000-2007.

To absorb the current rate of foreclosed and distressed homes plaguing most markets, a more normal rate of household formation is critical, according to the report. However, household growth partially has stalled as young adults have delayed homeownership and immigration has slowed.

As such, in recent years, builders have drastically cut production of new homes.

“With inventories of new homes at historic lows, a turnaround in demand could quickly result in tighter markets,” the report notes. “Over the longer term, the number of younger households is set to rise sharply, supporting growth in the population that fuels growth in both new renters and first-time buyers. The path of the economy and evolution of the mortgage market will determine when and if this increased demand materializes.”

The report predicts a need for greater housing units for several reasons. For example, the report projects demand for 1 million new homes a year is needed to meet population growth in the coming decade. The report also predicts a surge in smaller homes, estimating that 3.8 million baby boomers will be looking to downsize their homes within the next decade. Also immigration growth, the need to replace existing homes, and demand for second homes will contribute to rising demand for housing units, the report notes. Therefore, researchers conclude at least 16 million new housing units will be needed over the next decade.

To download the report, visit Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies website.

Source: “Harvard: Real Estate Recovery Hinges on Return of Demand,” Inman News (June 6, 2011)
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