Slow housing construction in Chicago area, matching slow population growth

The release of data showing a small population increase in Chicago and the region also included data on housing construction in the Chicago region:

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The number of homes in the Chicago metro area grew by 3.9% between 2010 and 2020, census data made public Thursday shows. That was a slower growth rate than the nation overall, where the number of homes grew by 6.7%.

The slow housing growth was not surprising, as the region recovered from the 2008 housing and financial crisis…

Among Cook and the collar counties, only Kendall County added homes at a higher rate than the nation: 11.6%. It added more homes than any county in the state, likely reflecting the county’s explosive growth in population over the past decade…

The Chicago area’s population growth could be good news for the housing market, inspiring investors and developers to take a deeper interest in the city, Smith said.

Presumably, builders and developers are going to be a bit hesitant to build a lot of units when the population is not growing as quickly. If new demand is limited, why build too many units and risk having lower selling prices? Add this corollary to the growth is good idea in American communities: higher rates of housing construction is a sign of a bright future and a higher status.

I do wonder what percent of homes or residential units need to be replaced each decade. Populations in metropolitan regions expand out – as noted above in Kendall County with double-digit growth – and occupy existing homes and units that may or may not meet their needs. Teardowns are one option, usually limited to wealthier communities where a new home in place of an older one can get a hefty price, but so are denser housing developments, in-fill development, or a change of use for properties (think vacant shopping malls or office parks converted to housing).

Additionally, does this small increase in homes also help address the need for affordable housing? At what price points are these new homes going for? I would guess that at least a sizable percentage of the new homes are out of reach of many in the region.

Chicago area housing starts up 37%; still one-fifth of “normal”

The good news: Chicago area housing starts are up. The bad news: housing starts had slowed so much in recent years that this is nowhere near “normal.”

Housing starts in the first quarter in the Chicago area rose 37 percent, which puts the local housing market on track to build 4,000 homes this year, the best performance in three years, according to Metrostudy, a housing research and consulting firm.

Still, a normal number for new-home starts in the Chicago area is 18,000 to 20,000. “We’re one-fifth of that. We’re a long way from being normal,” said Chris Huecksteadt, director of Metrostudy’s Midwest markets…

A lack of quality inventory and bidding wars among resale homes have caused some consumers to change their focus and consider buying newly constructed homes. Several local builders report that they’ve started homes as spec or model homes and the properties have gone under contract before the drywall is up…

Because of that kind of demand, as well as a recent spike in lumber prices, some local firms are raising prices by $5,000 to $20,000 per home to help offset the cost of materials and to maintain or improve their profit margins. No one is getting too aggressive with price hikes, though, because it might lead to problems with appraisals and mortgage financing.

This may be the new normal for quite a while. As the end of the article notes, it may be difficult to generate consistent demand until there are more jobs.

When I see figures like this, I always think about the existing housing stock. Does this automatically mean that the available number of houses is really low? Or, is there a growing interest in recent years among buyers to forgo the problems existing houses may have and instead pay a little more to get a spot-free home? If some of the existing housing stock is going unpurchased, what then happens to those homes? Some people may not be able to move while other houses, particularly those in more disrepair and neglect, could become a drag on some neighborhoods.