According to NAHB analysis of the most recent Census data of Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design, townhouse construction in the third quarter of 2021 continued to show year-over-year construction increases. As housing demand has shifted to more suburban and exurban areas and housing affordability headwinds persist, medium-density construction lagged for much of 2020. However, demand for medium density neighborhoods is now returning as the economy reopens.
During the third quarter of 2021, single-family attached starts totaled 35,000, which is 16.7% higher than the third quarter of 2020. Over the last four quarters, townhouse construction starts totaled 143,000 units, 38% higher than the prior four quarter total (104,000).
Using a one-year moving average, the market share of new townhouses increased to 12.6% of all single-family starts. This represents a rebound after recent declines.
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.
Despite relative weakness in 2020, the long-run prospects for townhouse construction remain positive given growing numbers of homebuyers looking for medium-density residential neighborhoods, such as urban villages that offer walkable environments and other amenities, while seeking to avoid high-density communities that depend on mass transit and elevators in the wake of the virus-related lockdowns of the spring of 2020.
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