The over-supply of single-family housing
For years, many of us in the planning and real estate world have been talking about the mismatch between supply and demand in housing. That is, we've been building a very limited type of housing for decades (single family houses on a medium to large lot) well in excess of what the demand actually is for that type. To exacerbate it, we've been building these houses in subdivisions and planned communities that essentially force people to drive everywhere for everything. If you're lucky, you get a trail or a small park to walk to, but most all the other needs of daily life - shopping, work, recreation, school, worship and more require the use of a vehicle. This week, my good friend John Anderson (as we like to call him - John the Bad) of Anderson Kim in Chico, CA pointed me to a new report from Arthur Nelson and ULI that puts some numbers to this phenomenon. There's a lot to digest in this, but even just a read through the executive summary is astonishing. The report, titled "The New California Dream - How Demographic and Economic Trends may shape the Housing Market" focuses just on California but has lessons for the rest of the country. California by all accounts leads what happens in much of the rest of the country, so it's incumbent on us to pay close attention.
One aspect that really jumped out at me is the study of supply/demand for single family "conventional" housing. The report asserts that by a careful study of existing and projected trends, California has excess supply of such houses IN 2035! Nearly 25 years from now, if no new single-family detached houses on medium/large lots are built, supply will STILL exceed demand. And, this is in one of the country's faster-growing states.
Can you even imagine such a number in any other facet of consumer culture? What if we had more demand than supply of iPads 20 years from today?! Or 20+ years supply of french fries? Would we make any more of them, or seek to find other niches that need to be filled? The answer is obvious.
The report is interesting - here's a link to it if you want to see for yourself. The short answer: more multifamily housing, more housing near transit, more housing in walkable neighborhoods. That's not only what we've not been building enough of, but it's what the future is demanding.