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Survey: Multifamily Housing Construction Improves

The multifamily housing market showed signs of moving back toward stability in the first quarter of 2010, according to the latest National Association of Homebuilder’s Multifamily Market Index

The multifamily housing market showed signs of returning to stability in the first quarter of 2010, according to the latest National Association of Homebuilderís Multifamily Market Index.

The current production index for market-rent apartments jumped to 30.6--14 points higher than a year earlier--while future demand expectations for Class A apartments rose to 49.6 from 34 and for Class B to 53.1 from 43.9. For lower-rent units and for-sale condominiums, the current production indexes rose to 38.2 and 25.0, respectively, more than 10 points higher than in the first quarter of 2009.

The index measures multifamily builder sentiment based on production and occupancy at the current time, using a scale of 'stronger', 'same', or 'weaker' compared to the previous quarter, as well as buildersí expectations for conditions over the next six months. An index number greater than 50 indicates that builders who view conditions as getting stronger outnumber those who view conditions as becoming weaker. The values are not seasonally adjusted.

The current demand index for Class A apartments--among the hardest hit by the recession--also showed improvement, rising to 41.7, or 19 points higher than a year earlier. The index measuring demand for Class B apartments rose to 43.4, up seven points. Demand for Class C apartments--the least expensive and the most likely to stay occupied during hard times--showed a slight decline, falling about two points to 43.1.

Buildersí expectations for future production, though improved from a year ago, are still constrained by difficulty in obtaining loans to fund development. At 32.7, condo starts showed the lowest expectation of increase. The future production index for lower-rent communities is 45.1 and for market-rate rent communities 43.5.

ìThe most encouraging part of the [index] is the number of multifamily builders who are expecting gains in rental occupancy over the next six months,î says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. ìBuildersí optimism is directly related to recent positive employment news and expectations for the trend to continue. Current conditions are still depressed by multifamily buildersí difficulty obtaining financing for acquisition, development and construction.î