Chart of the Day: Housing Unit Growth v. Population Growth

Someone (apologies for I forget who) Tweeted out this report from the Met Council called simply “We Still Need More Housing” the other day. It’s got some great charts in it. Here are three of them.

Keep in mind that this is all metro-wide data. For example, check out this chart, comparing MSP to other US urban regions on a percentage (relative) basis:Housing Gap Relative 2019 B

The chart compares growth in housing stock to growth in population. The Twin Cities is doing poorly in providing new housing compared to population growth, and the gap is relatively worse than every other comparable metro other than Atlanta and San Francisco:

Housing Gap Relative 2019


The report argues we need to double the amount of annual new housing starts to meet demand.

See also this chart, which puts the need into perspective:

Housing Production V Gap 2019

Anyway, as I said, pretty compelling and seemingly unambiguous stuff. The presentation promises they will have data on affordability later in 2019, so that will fill in a lot more of the big picture around housing.

11 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Housing Unit Growth v. Population Growth

  1. Elizabeth Larey

    And recent studies have shown the cost of building much higher than almost every other metro region due to government fees and regulations. I spent over 25K proving half of the property I owned was not wetlands. They knew I was right, but I had to go thru the process so i did. It took 4 years. The cost to build is really high. I read somewhere it’s 350K to build a basic house on a lot. How do you change this?

    1. Matt SteeleMatt

      Build more houses per lot (duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, turkeyplexes, 19-plexes, etc).

      1. Cobo R

        These costs make multi-unit structures more expensive to build too.

        There needs to be some streamlining in the regulatory review process, because there is defiantly room for improvement… And I think that some (not all) of the regulations need to be made less stringent or at least more consistent year to year so that the extra cost to build in MN isn’t soo high vs other places.

    2. Monte Castleman

      It’s hard to get financing unless the house to be built on a lot is a certain number of times the cost of the raw land, so anything that makes raw land cost more has a multiplier effect on the finished house + lot combination. The multiplier varies by region but 3-5 times is common, I believe our area is towards the middle.

      Big issues with the cost of land are anti-growth policies like minimum lot sized zoning and the Met Council MUSA line. Eliminating those potentially would have a big effect at increasing the affordability of houses.

  2. Mike

    It’s good to see these metro wide views on topic like housing supply and population growth – if Richfield substantially built out their apt and condo profile they would take some pressure off Mpls for example.

  3. Alex

    Are these the right numbers to be using? I’m not sure that the rate of housing production in a time period can be directly related to the rate of population change in the same time period in a meaningful way. For example, if a city starts out with 2 housing units for every person, it could have a 1% housing growth rate and a 100% population growth rate and still have a surplus of housing, despite having a -99% score on the “How far behind” chart.

    Anyway, I came here for the aBRT articles.

  4. Steve Gjerdingen

    I think another thing that would help would be if cities relaxed their ‘unrelated persons’ laws and other laws that made it difficult for renters to stay with their city. For example, right now in New Brighton if a landlord tries to lease a rental property, only a max of 2 unrelated adult persons can live there. This makes the vast majority of single family home rental housing cost-prohibitive to a significant portion of the population. Falcon Heights and Roseville make owners fill out paperwork with the city even if they just want to rent out one room in their own home that they are living in. Furthermore, suburban winter parking policies make it very difficult for rentals to thrive in suburbs, which are mostly full of single family homes. These are very easy laws to change!

    Lastly, there are probably a lot of empty nesters out there who have available rooms (rooms not being slept in) in their houses that could be rented out as bedrooms but this is not happening. I’d be curious what the economic payoff would have to be for even just 50% of the empty nesters to rent out their spare rooms.

    I’m with Alex that these numbers don’t tell the whole story. We need to know the true capacity of our housing before we can understand the true nature of the ‘crisis’. Vacancy rates mean little if we don’t know the utilization of each of the rental ‘dwelling units’ out there.

    1. Monte Castleman

      Bloomington has a max of four unrelated persons and no winter parking restrictions, but I still don’t see a large number of unrelated rentals in my neighborhood- I don’t know of any. Either the houses are occupied by families or the empty-nesters choose not to rent out their spare rooms. It’s pretty understandable why they wouldn’t- typically their house is paid for and you give up your privacy, one of the main advantages of the single family detached form factor.

      I did know a few people that rented rooms in the suburbs- Bloomington and elsewhere. Typically it was either a couple of people that previously knew each other getting together and renting the entire house, or a person renting from a younger homeowner couple that had yet to start a family and needed money to put towards a mortgage and had a basement that was somewhat separated (and the spare upstairs bedrooms were left empty). Maybe the landlords needed walk through the rental to do laundry and the tenants needed to walk across the kitchen to get to the basement stairs, but there was a separate kitchen and bathroom downstairs so they were able to keep themselves separate most of the time.

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