Which Sun Belt Cities Are Building the Most New Single-Family Homes

Andrew Keatts | @andy_keatts | May 17, 2016

Image via Google Street View.

Newly built homes in Houston. Image via Google Street View.

The housing affordability crisis facing cities across the country is drawing its share of attention.

Rents in California cities have reached eye-popping numbers, for example. But even as Californians envy the lower costs of places like Houston and Austin, those cities, too, saw rising prices and stagnant wages squeezing renters last year.

It’s all put renewed attention on the extent to which cities are letting developers build homes at a fast enough pace to keep prices affordable.

At the same time, urbanists are continuing to pressure cities to make way for new homes through increased development within the inner urban core. That often means de-emphasizing single-family homes that are more easily built on the edges of a metropolitan area.

Across the Sun Belt last year, metro areas built new housing at wildly different rates, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And plenty of those Sun Belt cities still rely heavily on single-family homes to accommodate a needed increase in their housing supply, according to the same data.

Here’s a chart comparing the major Sun Belt metro areas by how many new homes they permitted last year, regardless of style. It’s expressed in terms of new housing permits for every 1,000 residents of the area, to account for the relative differences in population among the areas.

One thing that immediately jumps out is the extent to which California cities lag behind their Sun Belt peers. Austin permitted more homes per 1,000 residents than any other area, and it permitted five times more than Los Angeles, for instance.

Dallas, meanwhile, was around the middle of the pack in new homes relative to its population. But the 57,146 homes it permitted were the most of any city, and over 40 percent more than the 34,034 permitted in Los Angeles — even though L.A. is significantly larger than Dallas.

Similarly, Charlotte permitted 19,543 new homes last year, while the San Diego metro area permitted just 9,883. That’s more than twice as many new homes, even though great Charlotte has nearly one million fewer people than the San Diego area.

Single-family home production is also wildly variable within the Sun Belt.

San Antonio, for instance, builds little else but single-family homes. More than 80 percent of its housing permits are for single-family homes.

The coastal cities Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami, meanwhile, produce by far the fewest single-family homes as a share of their overall new housing stock. In each of those places, less than 35 percent of the new homes are single-family.

Those cities also happen to be the three that are building the fewest new homes relative to their population in the entire Sun Belt.

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