Exurbs, which the National Association of Home Builders defines as outlying counties of large metro areas, were the only region of the country that had net year-over-year growth in single-family permits in the first quarter, the industry group said in a report out Tuesday.
In the exurbs, year-over-year permit growth was just 1.6% compared to a year before. It was a tepid quarter: there were declines in every other category. But NAHB has tracked the four-quarter moving average of permit applications back to 2016, and the exurbs have consistently had among the strongest interest from builders, as shown in the chart below.
NAHB Chief Economist Rob Dietz is reluctant to characterize the recent outward migration as good or bad. “In order to gain access to single-family homeownership, people are choosing to pay through longer commutes,” Dietz said in an interview. Buyers have other options, Dietz points out, like townhouses in closer-in areas.
Still, he acknowledges it’s worth watching the many ways the lack of affordability is shaping — or reshaping — the housing market.
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