Is the U.S. becoming a renter nation? The housing crisis taught Americans that housing is shelter, not an investment. That awareness freed people to choose the housing that best suits their lifestyle. For millions, that was an apartment.
Renting has many advantages. Maintenance-free living in vibrant neighborhoods with restaurants, theaters and shops nearby are just a few. And after the Great Recession, renting's new competitive advantage is mobility to pursue career opportunities.
Even before the global financial crisis, demographic changes favored the density, flexibility and affordability of apartment living. The echo boomers are beginning to enter the housing market, primarily as renters. The baby boomers are retiring and many are downsizing and simplifying with a rental apartment. The "typical" American household of a couple with children—the driver of our suburban homeownership push for years—is now less than a quarter of our population and falling.
These meaningful changes have serious implications for the kind of housing we need and want. University of Utah Professor Arthur C. Nelson estimates that between 2008 and 2015, nearly two-thirds of new households formed will be renters. That’s six million new renter households. As a result, he predicts that half of all new homes built between now and 2030 should be rentals to meet emerging housing demands.
It's too early to tell if this new appreciation of renting is a short-term response to a struggling economy and a battered housing market. But if it persists, it's a landmark shift. And there are reasons to believe that the new normal favors more long-term renters and more renters by choice.
Our 2010 Annual Report also details our federal advocacy victories, the evolution of our 10-year-old "balanced housing policy" initiative and our work to preserve the industry's access to reliable and affordable capital.
Download a PDF of the Report Here.
View an Interactive Version of the Report Here.