The number of new apartments in large multifamily buildings increased by 187,000 units in 2017, the largest bump since 1972, when the census started counting them.
The growth may reflect the fact that many young would-be homeowners are having a hard time affording houses in many markets, but it also might indicate that the millennial generation has retained its taste for urban living, even as the oldest members of that cohort reach their mid-30s.
In 2017, two-thirds of the new units went up in the South and the West, according to the census report. However, the one-year growth rate was highest in the Northeast, where units expanded by 46 percent, and the Midwest, at 50 percent. Units in large multifamily buildings grew by 4 percent in the South and by 11 percent in the West during the same period.
The construction of new rental apartments in buildings with 50 or more units has grown sharply since 2011, when fewer than 40,000 units were built.
Whether the pattern will continue into 2018 is uncertain. As of August, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that finished construction of units in both large and small apartment buildings was down nearly 20 percent from the previous year. However, starts for all apartment buildings are still near recent highs of about 400,000 units a year.