Q1 2021 HBGI: Home Building and Commuting


In addition to its analysis on areas with the longest commuting times, the Q1 2021 Home Building Geography Index (HBGI) features two other Commute-to-Work data series: counties with top shares of bicycle commuters (i.e., greater than or equal to 0.5 percent) and counties with top shares1 of work-from-home workers (greater than or equal to 6.6 percent). Single-family and multifamily housing submarkets for both categories had been bifurcated at the county-level between the top quintile and all other areas for this analysis.

The HBGI data show that the top quintile of counties of bicycle commuters accounted for 31.3 percent of single-family homebuilding as of the first quarter of 2021. During 2016, that is, the first few quarters under the HBGI’s purview, the share had been slightly larger.

The market shares have a more intuitive result when looking at the multifamily sector: top bicycle commuter counties accounted for 52.4 percent of multifamily home building. Therefore, one might reasonably expect the share of multifamily home building to be greater in these counties, as commuting by bicycle is a popular choice of transit in urban areas.

Counties with a relatively high percentage of work-from-home workers, have lower market shares in both single-family and multifamily home building, by about 50 percent in both submarkets, than their office-focused commuter counterparts. In other words, single-family and multifamily homebuilding is approximately three times greater in counties where the share of work-from-home workers is less than 6.6 percent, which effectively make up 80 percent of all counties surveyed.

The data show that single-family home building outpaced its multifamily counterpart in recent history, particularly in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated work-from-home arrangements that often resulted in many Americans moving away from core counties of large metro and small metro areas.

  1. Both shares are derived from data from the “Commuting Characteristics” table of the 2018 5-year American Community Survey. Hence, they do not account for any subsequent changes that might have ensued in later years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of work-from-home workers greatly increased due to shelter-in-place restrictions.

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