The Federal Reserve announced today that it will hold interest held rates steady at its current federal funds target between 5.25 and 5.50 percent, the highest in 22 years.
In its statement, the Fed cited low unemployment, elevated inflation, strong economic growth, and flattening in the housing sector as reasons for its decision to pause but remained open to additional adjustments to monetary policy depending on future economic developments.
Core inflation, which excludes the more volatile elements of food and energy, fell to 4.1 percent year over year in September, marking the sixth consecutive month of moderation.
Moreover, we know that shelter inflation (40 percent of Core CPI), will continue to come down over the coming year as a lagged response to slower growth in asking rents.
U.S. asking rents – what residents pay to sign a new lease – have been moderating for over a year now, but there is a significant lag between changes in market rents and what is captured by CPI (what residents are currently paying).
- The growth of asking rents for multifamily properties peaked at 10.8 percent year over year in 1Q 2022, according to data from CoStar, and then moderated for five consecutive quarters, reaching just 1.2 percent annual growth in the second quarter of this year.
- Shelter inflation as measured by the CPI, on the other hand, didn’t peak until March of this year at 8.2 percent before cooling to 7.2 percent in September.
That said, headline inflation stands at 3.7 percent year-over-year, still higher than the Fed’s stated target of 2 percent.
Why this matters:
Rising interest rates have caused both debt and equity capital to pull back from the apartment market.
As of October, NMHC’s Quarterly Survey of Apartment Market Conditions recorded nine consecutive quarters of worsening conditions for debt financing and seven consecutive quarters in which equity financing became less available.
This higher cost of capital has made it more difficult to build new housing and caused apartment sales volume to decrease sharply.
- Multifamily starts (5+ units in structure), when looking at a three-month moving average, fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 388,000 units in September, down 26.5 percent from the prior year.
- Apartment transaction volume decreased 62 percent in 3Q 2023 compared to the prior year, according to data from Real Capital Analytics.
At a time when the nation is facing severe housing affordability challenges, policymakers should exercise caution regarding policies that may compound and exacerbate already difficult market conditions. The nation needs to expand housing supply, equity and availability—not limit it.