Starts in Age Restricted Communities Up Slightly in 2011

In 2009, at the request of NAHB and possibly other stakeholders, the Census Bureau’s Manufacturing and Construction Division added a question on age-restricted communities to its Survey of Construction (the survey that gives us  housing starts, among other things).  In June of this year, for the first time, the Census Characteristics of New Housing release included enough of this new information to break out the age-restricted component of the official starts series for both single-family and multifamily construction.

The new data show that, after a substantial increase in 2010, age-restricted single-family starts were up again in 2011, although very slightly—from 12.6 to 12.7 thousand.  Because overall single-family production continued to be weak in 2011 (especially during the first part of the year), this translated into an increase in the age-restricted share of total single-family starts, from 2.7 to 3.0 percent.

Meanwhile, after literally doubling in 2010, the number of multifamily starts in age-restricted buildings increased again, from 16,000 to 18,000.  Because overall multifamily production increased strongly in 2011 (while still remaining well below a sustainable long-run trend line), the age-restricted share actually declined, from 14 to 10 percent of all multifamily units started during the year.

The Census Bureau provides a public use data set that can be used to show some characteristics (see questionnaire) of single-family homes started in a given year (Census confidentiality policy and the distinctive nature of individual buildings generally preclude public use files for multifamily structures).  If you’d like to see future posts on particular characteristics of single-family homes started in age-restricted communities in 2011, feel free to submit a comment.

The Census Bureau should be commended for collecting and publishing this new information about the important 55+ segment of the U.S. housing market.



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  1. Interesting, I am anxious to hear your assessment of 2012. My developer/owner customers are trying to decide when to jump back into the market.

    • NAHB generally releases a forecast of the 55+ segment of the housing market at the International Builders’ Show (next one is Jan 22-24 in Las Vegas). For 2012, we’re projecting all parts of the 55+ market (various categories of starts & sales) to be up around 18 percent from the generally low levels we saw in 2011. The 55+ market faces essentially all the same obstacles to recovery as the general housing market, because the vast majority of 55+ home purchases have historically been financed through the sale of an existing home. 55+ housing should grow at a slightly faster pace than the rest of the market, simply because 55+ is growing as a share of total U.S. households.

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