Northwest Mirrors National Shift Away From Single-Family Homes

May 16, 2014

New housing starts are a key economic indicator, but not all new houses are created the same. A new report issued Friday shows Washington and Oregon are following a national shift away from single-family homes toward more apartment complexes.

Multi-family buildings, defined as those with five housing units or more, make up more than one-third of new residential construction in both states. The number has nearly doubled over the past decade.

Chris Fick with the League of Oregon Cities says the trend is a mixed blessing for local governments. It's a way to grow without extending a city's boundaries. But Fick says Oregon's property tax on multi-family buildings is proportionally lower than single-family homes.

"The people who are residing in that house will have the same needs for transportation, public safety, parks and libraries and schools as anybody else, but local governments aren't recouping an equal amount of money,” he said.

Fick says it's not clear whether the shift toward more apartments and condos is temporary or reflects a long-term trend. One theory, he says, is that millennials are less likely to buy single-family homes due to uncertainty in the job market.