According to NAHB analysis of the most recent Census data of Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design, townhouse construction may be nearing the end of its recent slowdown, showing relatively flat construction conditions for the third quarter.
This recent market softness matches data in the NAHB HBGI, which displayed weak construction activity for large metro suburban markets at the start of 2019. Nonetheless, townhouse construction is set for further expansion given the demographics of renters entering the for-sale market, as well as ongoing land constraints and the growth of demand for walkable neighborhoods.
Over the last four quarter (ending with the third quarter of 2019), townhouse construction starts totaled 111,000, 10% lower than the prior four quarters. However, townhouses, or single-family attached housing, accounted for 32,000 starts during the third quarter of 2019. This was only slightly lower than the 33,000 total for the third quarter of 2018, indicating some recent momentum. Using a one-year moving average, the market share of new townhouses stands at 12.9% of all single-family starts, off recent post-recession highs.
The peak market share of the last two decades for townhouse construction was set during the first quarter of 2008, when the percentage reached 14.6% of total single-family construction. This high point was set after a fairly consistent increase in the share beginning in the early 1990s.
The market share for townhouse construction is expected to increase in coming years – with occasional ups and downs. The long-run prospects for townhouse construction are positive given large numbers of homebuyers looking for medium density residential neighborhoods, such as urban villages that offer walkable environments and other amenities.