Thank you, Harvard.
Once again, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has published a brilliant paper on the status of rental housing. This study supports what we have been saying for the past couple of years– but says it much better than I can. I thought I would share some of the findings relevant to the multifamily investment community and add my two cents. (You can ignore my two cents, but do read the study. It is very interesting.)
Among the findings:
Renter Households Number Almost 43 Million (Out of 116 Million Households)
- Renters now represent 37% of all households, the highest number since the mid-1960s.
That’s a lot of renters, and they need decent housing.
Rental Demand is Broad-Based
- Income: Renters in the top income bracket grew by 61%. In fact, households with incomes of $100,000 or more accounted for 18% of the rental growth from 2005 to 2015.
- Household size: Single-person households or married couples without children represented half of the growth.
- Age: The number of renters aged 50 and over grew 50% in the past ten years. In fact, Baby Boomers (50+) represented the largest share of rental growth.
In fact, households of all generations and all income levels have created an increasing demand for rental housing. We now have 43 million renter households in America. And Millennials – the typical, young, first time renters – are still living at home – 25 million of them! Add that to the current 43 million. On top of that, Baby Boomers are predicted to occupy another 12 million rental units in the coming years. That’s a huge pent-up demand! These are astonishing rental housing demographics. And the study suggests that growth in the adult population alone will increase these numbers.
Investors Are Seeing Strong Returns
- Annual returns grew to 12% in the 3rd quarter of 2015. Historically they have averaged 9.5%.
- Cap rates are down to about 5 percent, the lowest since the housing bubble.
And this is why Lloyd Jones Capital advises caution when investing in multifamily real estate assets. There is too much capital chasing too little supply. You have to be very careful not to be caught up in the real estate buying frenzy. And be sure you have a seasoned operator who can manage the investment asset. From personal experience, we know the importance of dedicated property management to the success of any project, which is why we have worked very hard to create the finest management arm in the industry.
Housing Affordability is a New Challenge
- Housing costs are up 7% in real terms since 2001; median renter household income is down 9% in real terms.
- “Burdened renters” (those spending more than 30 percent of income on housing costs) now number 21.3 million, half of whom are severely burdened (spending 50% of income on housing costs).
- There are 11.1 million extremely low-income renters (30% of median income) and only 7.2 million units affordable to them.
There’s a lot of new multifamily rental construction, but it is only for high-income renters. The very-low-income renters have at least some assistance. It’s the middle-income American workforce that lacks a supply of quality housing.
Federal Assistance Falls Short
- Since its inception in 1986, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program has added or preserved more than 2.2 million units. (However, many affordability periods will end between 2015 and 2025 which could jeopardize affordable housing options.) This program provides affordable housing to households earning less than 50% or 60% of median income.
This sounds good, and the LIHTC units are typically well constructed and well maintained. As a developer of approximately 40 LIHTC communities throughout the US, I know the program well. However, what began with great intentions during the Reagan era, has subsequently been diluted by all the layers of bureaucracy and special interests. Now, in fact, the cost to construct a LIHTC property can be double that of a market rate, Class A property.
- The United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has programs, including the voucher assistance, which cover very-low-income households (those earning less than 50% of median income). But real funding for those programs remains below 2008 levels. And the average wait time for a voucher is 23 months.
I have some suggestions here, but will leave the details up to those who understand the HUD housing programs better than I. There are a lot of programs for the very poor. But what about the American workforce that also struggles to find affordable housing? These households don’t have all the assistance that is available to the very low income households. If you took all the money poured into various programs, including LIHTC, and applied it directly to vouchers, I suspect households would be moving out of bad neighborhoods and into safer communities. First, I would expand the voucher program. I would include households above the “very low-income” levels (50% of median income). I would give the low-to-middle income earner some financial assistance, and then let the household choose a neighborhood. Right now, the household is limited by the maximum rent HUD decides is appropriate, and often that is not high enough to meet the asking rent in a nice property. Let the voucher holder contribute to the rent. Let the voucher holder decide priorities. It might be worth being “burdened” in order to live closer to work or in a highly rated school district.
Again, at Lloyd Jones Capital, we are a real estate investment firm that is addressing this issue with our American Workforce Housing Fund. Through this fund, we are acquiring C and C+ properties in good neighborhoods. With modernization and upgrades, we can give these communities amenities similar to those found in Class A properties. And the rental rates remain affordable.
In summary, this is fascinating information regarding the multifamily real estate sector. The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University does an exceptional job compiling and presenting the data. The study is full of interesting charts and facts. At Lloyd Jones Capital, we have been saying these things for the past couple of years as we follow trends in cap rates, occupancy rates, etc. We are grateful to Harvard for supplying the quantifying support. You can find the complete study with abundant charts and data here.
Christopher Finlay is Chairman/CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital, a private-equity real-estate firm that specializes in the multifamily sector. With 35 years of experience in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, manages and improves multifamily real estate on behalf of its institutional partners, private investors and its own principals. Headquartered in Miami, the firm has operations throughout Texas, Florida and the Southeast. For more information visit: lloydjones.wpengine.com.