Apartments are getting built at a record clip — it’s too bad they aren’t the right kind

Almost nine out of every 10 new apartments built in the US this decade are “high-end” units.

Maybe we read too much news (we definitely read too much news), but every single day we’re confronted with a certain intractable housing crisis.

new apartment construction by year

One common conclusion: There is no panacea, but building more affordable apartments for working-class people sure would help.

Now Americans are building more apartments than ever before — just mostly for the wealthy.

First, the good numbers

In the US, a record 460k+ new apartments will go on the market this year.

Another 1m newly built rentals are expected through 2025 (though high interest rates and rising construction costs may ultimately lower that number).

Overall, since covid, America has experienced a construction boom “not seen since the 1970s,” per RentCafe.

… But there’s a problem

To start, ~89% of new builds in the 2020s are high-end units. Those most affected by the current market — low-income renters — remain short on options.

It’s not even a win for all high-income Americans: Nearly two-thirds of construction is concentrated in 20 metro areas, comprising just 41% of US renters.

Builders are flooding the market with the new supply it theoretically needs, just not where it’s needed most.

This mess, as told through NYC

On the surface, this year’s numbers look good for New Yorkers — the city’s ~33k new units will top the US.

But even if the city maintains this scorching pace, it’d only gain ~231k units by 2030. Last year, officials projected the city would need ~560k units by 2030 to keep pace with demand.

If you’re one of the city’s 2m+ renters, assume rent relief isn’t coming anytime soon. Which… oof: In July, the median price of a Manhattan apartment hit a record $4.4k/month.

All that for just 740 square feet on average? No wonder the city never sleeps.

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