Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gotta build something

I was reading about housing starts today, and this phrase struck me:
Construction started on buildings with five or more units at an annual rate of 171,000 units, the highest level in two years. The rate of starts for single-family homes was the lowest in almost two years.
I find it tremendously cheering.  Five years ago, I remain the general despair at the thought of ever getting builders to shift toward developing multi-family properties. "No one will build multi-family, because developers have no experience at it". But the current oversupply of single family homes has changed that--if you've got a construction company, you've got to build something or go broke. Even if you fire everyone, you've still got cost of capital. So builders are switching.

The techniques for building town homes and condos really aren't that different from those used to build mansions and large house. Extra bedrooms, guest bathrooms, second kitchens, second furnaces and water heaters. Simply a matter of adding a few extra walls.

In the long-term, demand for single family homes will resume. But the skills for building decent multi-family units will have been developed, and that will do a lot to overcome the friction associated with developing TOD.