Our Long-Awaited Construction Boom Still Isn’t Quite Here

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

As you may recall, Smithian economics suggests that we’re due for a big rebound in housing construction and that this rebound will drive a strong economic recovery over the next few years. However, Karl Smith himself is starting to get pessimistic. Multi-unit housing starts are increasing, but they still look pretty anemic compared to past housing booms:

The “hopeful” argument is that while the absolute increase is much smaller this time around the pace is actually a bit faster, a four-fold increase rather than a 3-fold increase.

However, given the current conditions in housing I was looking for an even stronger snap back. This alone will not be enough to push the economy into a boom. We need a series step-up in the rate of growth.

What’s worse from a long run perspective is that the failure of multifamily to bounce back potentially sets up single family for a new bubble….That kind of instability is difficult to manage. Economic stabilization going forward would be better if there was a larger stock of multifamily rental housing, yet that is looking increasingly unlikely.

This might just be a temporary problem. Price-to-rent ratios are continuing to decline after a brief upward blip in 2009, which should make apartment construction increasingly attractive to developers. In the end, though, it’s all going to depend on the same virtuous circle that ends every recession: more jobs means more income, which means more homebuilding, which in turn produces more jobs, world without end. (For a few years, anyway.) But we’re still not producing enough new jobs to get all those 20-somethings to move out of their parents’ basements in big enough numbers, so the virtuous circle is having trouble really catching fire. More stimulus, please.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate