You Are Not Alone, I Am Here With You: Housing Starts Still Recovering Across Parts of the World

The continued recovery in housing starts, relative to a period considered normal, is not isolated to the United States. Figures from the European Mortgage Federation, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport indicate that while housing starts have recovered in some countries, they are still recovering in many others.

Figure 1 below compares the size and performance of housing starts in 2013, the last year for which data is available across all analyzed countries. In the figure, the x-axis depicts the total number of housing starts in 2013 and the y-axis shows the year-over-year change in housing starts for those same countries. According to the chart, 12 of the 16 countries recorded total housing starts that were less than 50,000. At 769, Iceland recorded the fewest housing starts. Meanwhile, Poland, 162,200, the United Kingdom, 127450, Canada, 187,923, and France 331,900 recorded the highest levels of housing starts in 2013. The United States, not shown on the figure, recorded 925,000 housing starts in 2013, while Japan, also not shown, totaled 980,025 housing starts.

The change in housing starts between 2012 and 2013 varied across these countries. As the chart indicates, 6 countries recorded an annual increase in housing starts while 9 countries recorded annual declines. Housing starts in Norway were virtually unchanged between 2012 and 2013. In 2012 housing starts in Norway totaled 29,492 and in 2013, housing starts totaled 29,490. By comparison, housing starts in the United States rose by 19% between 2012 and 2013, while in Japan, housing starts grew by 11%.

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The data on housing starts provided by the European Mortgage Federation, along with housing starts data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport suggests that the global financial crisis may have had a more far reaching impact on housing production than just in the United States. Figure 2 below measures the number of housing starts in each year relative to their 2002 level. The figure assumes that 2002 was the last period of normality for all of the countries for which data is available. This calculation is done for all countries shown in Figure 1 except Bulgaria and Ireland where housing starts for 2002 were not available. Figure 2 adds the United States, Japan, Slovakia and Romania. Available housing starts data for Slovakia spans 2002 to 2011 and in Romania, the extent of availability includes the years 2002 to 2008.

According to Figure 2, 15 countries recorded housing starts in 2003 that exceeded their 2002 level while in 2013, 5 countries recorded housing starts that exceeded their 2002 level. As the figure indicates, the number of countries with housing starts that exceeded their 2002 levels rose from 15 to 18 between 2003 and 2005. In 2005, housing starts in all countries for which data was available exceeded their 2002 level. However, between 2005 and 2009, the number of countries fitting this description fell from 18 to 5. After some fluctuation, the number of countries where housing starts exceeded their 2002 level returned to 5 in 2013.

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Figure 3 identifies the countries where the level of housing starts in 2013 exceeds that of 2002. This series includes all of the countries in Figure 2 except Slovakia and Romania. According to the figure, the level of housing starts in 2013 exceeds that of 2002 in Poland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and France. Meanwhile, 2013 housing production in Finland and Canada are within 10 percentage points of their respective 2002 levels. In contrast, 2013 housing starts in Greece and Spain are less than 10% of their respective 2002 level. At 54%, the 2013 housing starts in the United States are less than their level in 2002, a situation experienced by 10 other countries for which data is available.

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