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.

January 6-7, 1996- Surprise Blizzard

The first two weeks of January 1996 proved to be a very wintry period, culiminating in a severe snowstorm with blizzard conditions on the 6th-7th. Although this storm was made famous for its effects on the Eastern Seaboard, the storm also had a significant impact on areas to the west of the Appalachians.

This storm developed in the Gulf of Mexico on the 6th and moved up along the East Coast through the 7th. Forecasts for Ohio were not especially indicative of an impending major storm. A weak low pressure moving through the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys was supposed to die out as the main storm on the Coast took over. Ohio was generally forecast to receive 1-3″, mainly along and south of I-70, with the higher end of the range down along the Ohio River. Even as late as the night of the 6th when snow began to fall, forecasters were not calling for a significant event.

I have very vivid memories of seeing the afternoon and evening news on the 6th and being disappointed at the forecasts for the storm to pass us well to the east. However, by the morning of the 7th, it was clear that the forecast had gone very wrong. Heavy snow and strong winds affected mainly the southern 2/3rds of the state. For some locations, there would be more than 30 hours of continuous snowfall.

Blizzard conditions raged across west-central and northwestern sections of the state, where winds gusted over 55mph. Blowing and drifting snowfall piled drifts several feet deep, and travel across the state was made impassible, particularly on country roads. For many, this was one of the greatest January snowstorms ever, and in some cases, the worst storm since the Great Blizzard of 1978. 8-10″ was common in the state, but there was as much as 15″ in parts of the Ohio River communities, as well as areas in west-central Ohio.

Some snowfall totals:

Columbus: 9.0″ Dayton: 8.0″ Cincinnati: 14.4″

So why had the forecast gone so wrong? The weak low pressure that was supposed to die off as the larger system wound up along the East Coast did not die out as expected. Instead, it moved into the lower Ohio Valley and essentially stalled as it spun itself down slowly. This low helped suck moisture over the mountains and into Ohio. Temperatures were cold enough for this moisture to fall as all snow, and a tight gradient brought with it strong winds. The result was a paralyzing winter storm and one of the all-time forecast busts ever.