A Red-Blue Divide on Home Construction

Filed in Economics by on March 3, 2020 3 Comments

Nearly two-thirds of multifamily construction in the fourth quarter of 2019 occurred in “blue counties” where Hillary Clinton garnered the most votes in the 2016 election, while nearly the same percentage of single-family home building took place in “red counties” where President Trump won. And momentum for continued single-family and multifamily construction continues in the red counties, according to the latest quarterly NAHB Home Building Geography Index (HBGI).

The fourth quarter release of the HBGI examines all the counties in the United States based on the 2016 presidential candidate vote totals and sheds new light on red/blue county home building conditions.

Using fourth quarter permit data, NAHB’s HBGI finds:

  • 51% of the U.S. population live in blue counties and 49 percent live in red counties;
  • 61% of single-family construction occurs in red counties;
  • 64% of multifamily construction is found in blue counties;
  • Over the course of 2019, single-family construction expanded at a 1.7% average rate in red counties, while declining 1.2% in blue counties; and
  • Multifamily construction posted much faster growth rates in red counties vs. blue (21% vs. 8% gain).

“The lack of housing supply and inventory is the primary challenge facing housing markets nationwide, and are key factors why the nation is struggling with a housing affordability crisis,” said NAHB Chairman Dean Mon. “This latest HBGI data reveals that red counties are outpacing their peers in blue counties, despite almost two-thirds of apartment construction occurring in blue areas. The analysis highlights the importance of land use rules and development costs in determining the amount of home construction that takes place in communities across the U.S.”

“While single-family permits ended the year just slightly positive and multifamily permits registered solid growth, ongoing challenges remain with respect to adding supply in high-growth, high-cost markets,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “The lagging performance of single-family construction in blue counties, combined with the 2019 declines for home building in large metro suburban areas, highlight this affordability challenge, which is a source of frustration for younger households in high-cost markets.”

The HBGI is a quarterly measurement of building conditions across the country and uses county-level information about single- and multifamily permits to gauge housing construction growth in various urban and rural regions.

Other findings in the fourth quarter HBGI:

  • Single-family construction continues to lag in manufacturing areas, posting a 1.6% decline over the course of 2019, compared to a slight gain for the rest of the nation.
  • Single-family construction is growing the fastest in small metro, outlying areas (small metro suburbs), while it continues to decline in traditional suburbs of large metro areas (1.4% decline) – the worst performing region for single-family.
  • Multifamily construction posted gains in all regions by the end of the year.

Learn more about the HBGI at nahb.org.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Well written and to the point. I appreciate the detail in this article!

  2. Josh A says:

    Makes sense IMO.

    I wouldn’t have thought about it had you not written the article in regards to the data, but now that I see it it does make sense.

    Urbanization is exploding. Families raising kids are largely moving into the burbs or staying in the burbs.

    Dense urban areas are out of space so they build up (apartments).

    Dense urban areas usually note blue.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Fran Tabor says:

    It has been a known fact for at least 30 years the single most important factor determining if you are voting R or D is NOT race, age, religion, education level, new or born citizen, employment… or any of the other factors that the media focuses on. It is the average population of where you and/or where you became politically aware.
    Laws and regulations that make it more difficult to personally own your own home—such as minimum acreages or setbacks from your neighbors, or from waterways without regard to geography at the location—decrease ordinary citizens’ ability to own their own home and force more into densely populated multifamily situations. Weirdly, making it more legally difficult to add an apartment or rent out an extra bedroom to an existing single family home does the same thing. One of the pernicious ways to make it more difficult to become and remain a homeowner is restricting and/or blocking home business combos. Home based businesses are associated with reduced crime and reduced truancy—but you would never know it from the way D based city governments react to such things.
    Not paying attention during zoning meetings can change the political landscape over night.

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