The first quarter of 2020 witnessed a shift in home building towards less population-dense housing markets in the United States, a trend which was greatly hastened by the onset of COVID-19. While most states issued statewide stay-at-home orders with exemption for construction, some of the hardest-hit states had no exemptions for construction when the pandemic first hit. While NAHB’s Home Building Geography Index (HBGI) focuses on county-level homebuilding developments, it is also informative to look at the relationship between COVID-19-associated deaths per capita by state and single- and multifamily permit issuances per capita by state.
The above figure shows the number of single-family permits issued in March plotted against deaths per 100,000 persons, by state. As expected, some of the states which had the highest population-adjusted, COVID-19-associated deaths, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut also feature relatively lower permit numbers. At the same time, these states also have a larger share of multifamily markets than other states.
It is worth noting that while New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had the highest COVID-19-associated fatality rates, the multifamily housing demand in these states was still robust as of the end of the first quarter. Among all of the states’ population-adjusted, multifamily permit issuances for March, Connecticut’s permit number was at the 50th percentile, i.e., represented the median of all states’ population-adjusted multifamily permit issuances, while New York and New Jersey were above the 50th percentile.
Deaths per capita appear more concentrated in larger multifamily markets, while deaths per capita are less concentrated in larger single-family markets. These broad correlations are consistent with the NAHB forecast indicating the single-family market will be less affected.