Obrinsky: Apartment supply is
playing catch up to demand but
demand is still increasing faster.

McLEAN, VA-Two organizations, the National Multi Housing Council and Freddie Mac, have released projections about the multifamily market that suggest that demand growth is starting to slacken—but only by a little bit. To be sure, the consensus of both organizations is that demand is still stronger than supply and that supply will find it difficult to play catch up because financing remains constrained.

“Multifamily is still a very solid asset class with strong demand,” NMHC chief economist Mark Obrinsky tells GlobeSt.com. Still, the question hovers in the background: When will supply overcome demand? The best back-of-the-envelope calculation: not for a very long time. “Demand for apartments by residents will increase at a moderate rate for the near term, maybe even for the intermediate term,” Obrinsky says. “I think we have several years of similar kinds of increases that we are seeing now.”

However, the NMHC quarterly survey did capture a distinct drop in demand–the Market Tightness Index portion of its survey declined to 56 from 76. (A reading above 50 indicates that, on balance, apartment markets around the country are getting tighter; a reading below 50 indicates that market conditions are getting looser; and a reading of 50 indicates that market conditions are unchanged).

Separately, Freddie Mac Multifamily Research Group released its multifamily real estate market demand forecast for the next several years; its findings reflect NMCH’s contention that the multifamily market still has strong fundamentals. Freddie Mac forecasts that an additional 1.7 million new multifamily renter households will emerge between now and 2015 in a slow economic growth scenario. If the economic recovery accelerates, demand will be in 1 million new renter range; and if no recovery, it will be in the 1.6 million range for new renters.

With this report, too though, some cracks in multifamily’s fundamentals are starting to emerge. The single-family rental market, a growing and distinct market from multifamily, has expanded 16%, or about 3 million units, since 2007. Indeed a number of private equity companies have entered this space, buying up foreclosed homes with the aim of consolidating these assets under a REIT structure.

The saving grace for multifamily will continue to the tight financing that exists in the space, despite the GSEs financing, NMHC finds. Financing is still only available for top markets, the survey finds. Only one in five (21%) of respondents reported acquisition capital being similarly available for all geographic markets and properties. Construction financing was even more restricted, with just 8% of respondents indicating construction financing for new apartments was available in all markets for all property types. The vast majority reported construction financing as only available for either the top properties in the top markets (37%) or for all property types in the top markets (36%).