Housing Trends of Columbus

***Originally Posted May 23, 2014, updated with 2014 data 9/18/2015 and again on 5/29/2016 with 2015 data***

I posted a graph recently showing housing permits for Franklin County to show how construction was trending. Today, I found more long-term data for both the city and county that continue to show some interesting trends.

First, let’s look at just the city of Columbus.

The chart above goes back through the mid-1990s. The first thing to notice is the housing boom from 1999-2002. Both single-family and multi-family construction was booming. The very good economic conditions, or seemingly good ones, during the 1999-2000 period is probably most responsible for this. What’s most interesting is that the boom seemed to last through at least part of the mild recession experienced in 2001-2002. After that, housing of both types started to decline through the late 2000s. This shows that construction in the city began to decline as early as 2002-2003, before the peak of the general housing boom in the mid-2000s.

Another interesting fact is at the end of the period. Multi-family units have recovered and are back in boom territory. This boom, however, is much different than the one that occurred more than a decade ago, as shown by the below chart.

During the 1999-2002 housing boom, multi-family housing averaged 59.3% of all the units constructed. In the current boom, which began in 2012, multi-family housing has averaged 81.4% of all the units constructed. The average difference between the types 1999-2002 was just 18.6 points. In the current boom, the difference is almost 63 points! In that regard, there really is no comparison between the housing boom a decade ago and the current one. Multi-family construction is in MUCH higher relative demand now than it was at any time in the last 20 years, including during the last housing boom.

But what does this tell us about where the housing is actually being constructed? Well, for that, we have to look at the entirety of Franklin County. Is the county also seeing a similar multi-family boom, or has single-family construction recovered there more than in the city?

This chart, in some aspects, is the opposite of the one for the city. While in the city, multi-family units consistently outnumbered single-family, the opposite is true for the county as a whole. This is likely because the county takes into account all the suburban areas, most of which are dominated by single-family housing. In only a few instances did multi-family housing units outnumber single-family before 2010. After 2010, it’s clear that the multi-family boom is hitting the rest of the county and not just Columbus itself. This may actually represent an even greater shift in housing construction. While it appeared that single-family construction was gradually rising since 2011, it once again fell off some in 2015 while multi-family went up. It appears that the new reality is, at least for now, holding steady.

Here’s the % of total chart for the county.

So it’s also clear that the county is seeing most of its construction in recent years be multi-family units.

Cool Link of the Day: Urb-I Urban Ideas

I saw this site mentioned on the CityLab site awhile back and thought it was a very cool idea. The site highlights how cities are transforming public spaces and making car-centric areas much more pedestrian, bike and transit friendly. Since I found the site, I have been lucky enough to become a regular contributor working to help make the site even better. The great thing is that anyone can send in before and after photos from their own cities of public space transformations. Take a look: http://www.urb-i.com/ The site covers cities across the world.

Columbus has several examples that I have added, but the photos are not yet updated on the site’s map. Until they are, here is a sneak peek:

Civic Center Drive

West Town Street

Columbus Commons

Top Housing Markets of 2015

The 2015 housing market was one of the strongest since before the recession, and 2016 looks to do even better. An ongoing problem, especially within the more urban markets, is a historically low inventory of available homes for sale. This has been a problem for several years now, as construction has failed to match demand.

That lack of inventory really shows up in the yearly % change chart. Few urban markets have increased year over year, as they have a much more limited supply of housing, even as demand for urban housing has increased.

Let’s see how this impacted prices.

While urban markets were not necessarily the most expensive compared to suburban, more of them were generally towards the top half of price increases last year.

2015 Metro Area Population Estimates and Peer Comparison

As promised, here is the information for the Columbus metro, its national peers and major Midwest metros.

2015 Metro Population Estimates
Chicago, IL: 9,551,031
Detroit, MI: 4,302,043
Minneapolis, MN: 3,524,583
St. Louis, MO: 2,811,588
Charlotte, NC: 2,426,363
Portland, OR: 2,389,228
Orlando, FL: 2,387,138
San Antonio, TX: 2,384,075
Pittsburgh, PA: 2,353,045
Sacramento, CA: 2,274,194
Cincinnati: 2,157,719
Las Vegas, NV: 2,114,801
Kansas City, MO: 2,087,471
Cleveland: 2,060,810
Columbus: 2,021,632
Austin, TX: 2,000,860
Indianapolis: 1,988,817
San Jose, CA: 1,976,836
Nashville, TN: 1,830,345
Virginia Beach, VA: 1,724,876
Providence, RI: 1,613,070
Milwaukee, WI: 1,575,747
Grand Rapids, MI: 1,038,583
Omaha, NE: 915,312
Dayton: 800,909
Akron: 704,243
Toledo: 605,956
Youngstown: 549,885


Components of Metro Area Population Change

As you can see, while Columbus has a middle of the road birth rate for its peers, its relatively low death rate means that it manages to be near the top of the its peer group in natural growth.

It seems that while international migration is competitive with peers in the Columbus metro, domestic migration would need to improve to truly be at the upper peer level. At the very least, it is positive.

Columbus’ Shrinking Annexation

Ever wonder how Columbus got so big in area? Its city limits stretch into parts of other counties and include about a third of Franklin County. Today, it has a reputation for annexing its way to growth, but how true is this?

Well, 50 years ago, it was more or less true. Today, not so much. Aggressive annexation began in Columbus in 1953, when Mayor Maynard “Jack” Sensenbrenner began his policy of requiring annexation into the city if communities wanted city water service. Between 1953 and 1960, the area size of the city more than doubled, and that rate continued through the 1960s and 1970s, even after Sensenbrenner was no longer mayor. After 1980, annexation rates gradually began to decline.

As the chart above shows, you can see the rapid rate of growth during the 1950s-1970s and the decline in more recent decades. Through the first 5 years of the 2010s, Columbus is on pace to add fewer than 3 square miles by 2020. Despite that fact, the city’s annual population growth since 2010 is exceeding the average annual growth of any decade during the mass annexation years. This strongly supports that the dynamic, and indeed, the story of Columbus’ growth is no longer about “fake” growth through the addition of existing land and population, but rather though the influx of new residents from outside of the city limits altogether. This is helping to gradually raise the city’s population density, which exceeded Cincinnati’s last year, as the chart below shows, along with a few other Columbus peers.