American Cities With the Biggest Increase in Multi-Family Home Construction [2022 Edition]

The state of the U.S. housing market has been one of the defining economic stories of the past two years. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has become more expensive for both buyers and renters. The median home sales price in the U.S. has increased by more than one-third since the beginning of the pandemic, rocketing past $400,000 in 2021. The rental market was relatively calm early in the pandemic, but renters now are paying more than 25% more on average than they were at this time last year.

Inadequate housing supply has been a key factor contributing to issues with housing affordability in the U.S. for years. Federal mortgage backer Freddie Mac estimates that the U.S. has a 3.8 million unit shortage of housing. But the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue of supply. Housing inventory fell to record lows in 2020. The shift to working, schooling, and socializing from home increased preferences—and competition—for larger, single-family homes among both buyers and renters. And ongoing supply chain challenges and labor shortages have made it difficult for builders to add new stock: building permits and housing starts have recovered strongly since early in the pandemic, but completions have failed to keep up.

However, as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, one promising sign for housing supply is an uptick in planned multi-family home construction. Multi-family housing increases the density and availability of housing units in urban and suburban locations, and it is more efficient and cost-effective to develop than single-family stock. And with more people now returning to their offices—along with restaurants, bars, venues, and other amenities—denser housing closer to work and social attractions is regaining its appeal.

For several years prior to the pandemic, the total number of multi-family units authorized held steady, while multi-family units as a share of total units authorized experienced a slow decline. Both of these figures increased in 2019 but fell off again with the onset of the pandemic in 2020. In 2021, however, the total number of multi-family units authorized jumped from 491,700 to 621,700, which brought the share of multi-family units authorized from 33.4% to 35.8%.

Chart1_Multi-family home construction slowed during COVID before rebounding

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Multi-family housing is especially important for adding stock in the densely-populated states of the Northeast U.S. In New York, multi-family units represented 72.3% of all new units authorized in 2021, and in neighboring Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, multi-family units represented more than 60% of total authorized units. More rural states, primarily in the South, tend to have lower levels of multi-family housing. For example, in Mississippi and Oklahoma, the share of housing units authorized in 2021 that were multi-family were in the single digits.

Chart2_Multi-family housing is most common in the Northeast

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But recent increases in multi-family home construction are also coming in some unexpected places. While Pennsylvania led the nation in its percentage change in multi-family unit authorizations from 2020 to 2021 at 195%, other top states include lower-density locations like New Mexico and Kentucky. And not every state is seeing a boom, either: ten states have seen a recent decrease in multi-family permits, led by Connecticut with a 42% decline in authorizations from 2020 to 2021.

Chart3_PA & NM reported the largest increase in multi-family construction

At the local level, many of the greatest increases in multi-family home construction have encouragingly come in fast-growing cities with housing affordability challenges, like Denver, Seattle, and Portland. But others are seeing sharp increases in the rate of multi-family authorizations simply because such housing is rare. For example, Louisville experienced a nation-leading 1,506.9% jump in the number of multi-family units authorized from 2020 to 2021, but multi-family units represented only 25.2% of authorized units and 11.1% of authorized value.

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Building Permit Survey. To determine the cities with the biggest increase in multi-family home construction, researchers at Construction Coverage calculated the percentage change in multi-family units authorized between 2020 and 2021. Researchers also calculated the total change in multi-family units authorized between 2020 and 2021, multi-family units as a share of total units authorized in 2021, and multi-family value as a share of total value authorized in 2021. To improve relevance, only cities with at least 100,000 residents were included.

Here are the U.S. cities with the biggest increase in multi-family home construction in 2021.

Chart4_Small & midsize cities w: biggest inc in multi-family construction

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Large Cities With the Biggest Increase in Multi-Family Home Construction

Oakland, CA

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15. Oakland, CA

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +69.0%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +505
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 91.6%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 88.5%
Arlington, TX

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14. Arlington, TX

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +73.1%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +528
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 56.2%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 44.7%
Miami, FL

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13. Miami, FL

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +75.7%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +2,651
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 98.4%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 95.8%
Fort Worth, TX

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12. Fort Worth, TX

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +90.1%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +2,056
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 37.5%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 26.9%
Wichita, KS

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11. Wichita, KS

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +111.5%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +194
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 32.6%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 11.9%
Portland, OR

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10. Portland, OR

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +113.7%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +1,359
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 84.3%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 79.0%
Seattle, WA

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9. Seattle, WA

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +113.8%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +6,237
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 97.8%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 95.9%
Denver, CO

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8. Denver, CO

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +117.1%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +4,558
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 84.5%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 71.9%
Raleigh, NC

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7. Raleigh, NC

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +121.5%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +2,816
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 79.1%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 65.2%
Milwaukee, WI

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6. Milwaukee, WI

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +125.6%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +98
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 86.3%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 71.7%
Anaheim, CA

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5. Anaheim, CA

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +129.8%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +471
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 90.8%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 95.0%
Aurora, CO

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4. Aurora, CO

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +214.2%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +1,418
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 49.8%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 35.9%
Dallas, TX

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3. Dallas, TX

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +250.6%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +5,553
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 77.6%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 62.6%
Philadelphia, PA

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2. Philadelphia, PA

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +406.3%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +19,022
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 93.9%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 90.1%
Louisville, KY

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1. Louisville, KY

  • Percentage change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +1,506.9%
  • Total change in multi-family units authorized (2020-2021): +437
  • Multi-family units as a share of total units authorized (2021): 25.2%
  • Multi-family value as a share of total value authorized (2021): 11.1%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Building Permit Survey. To determine the cities with the biggest increase in multi-family home construction, researchers at Construction Coverage calculated the percentage change in multi-family units authorized between 2020 and 2021. Researchers also calculated the total change in multi-family units authorized between 2020 and 2021, multi-family units as a share of total units authorized in 2021, and multi-family value as a share of total value authorized in 2021. To improve relevance, only cities with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, cities were grouped into cohorts by population: small (100,000–149,999), midsize (150,000–349,999), and large (350,000+).

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Jonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones is a senior researcher and data journalist for Construction Coverage. He received his J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and has degrees in philosophy and political science from UCLA.

When Jon is not researching real estate and public policy, he likes to fix up old cars and work on home improvement projects.