A Historical Perspective On Housing Starts

November 9, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

I first started working in this industry in May 1977, when this magazine’s founder Charlie Horton hired me as a novice associate editor. From the beginning I was assigned to cover industry economics, which meant paying close attention to various economic data impacting our industry. One of the most important statistics then and now was housing starts, which of course consume large quantities of plumbing products.

That year of 1977 was a momentous one for housing, with starts reaching an all-time high of more than 2.14 million. (All data cited here comes from the National Association of Home Builders and combines both single-family and multifamily units.) That was followed by another terrific year in 1978, with 2.02 million housing starts. (Housing would reach the 2 million-level only one more time, in 2005, when 2.07 million new homes were built.)

1979 saw a decline to a still respectable level of 1.75 million units, after which a severe recession took hold and starts plummeted as follows:
    1980: 1.29 million;
    1981: 1.08 million;
    1982: 1.06 million.
How well I remember the agony caused by that painful recession, which was cited at the time as the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Plumbing manufacturers and distributors suffered accordingly with such a major market sliced in half.

Recovery saw housing starts shoot up to 1.7 million units in 1983, and that began a string of good if unspectacular years for housing that lasted until 1990, which began three consecutive sub-par years of 1.19 million starts (1990), 1.01 million (1991) and 1.2 million (1992). After that, housing was off and running, peaking in 2005 and followed by another strong year in 2006 with 1.8 million starts.

How far have we fallen? Consider that last year housing starts totaled only 906,000 units. That was the first time since the 1940s housing has failed to top 1 million units, including that steep recession in the early 1980s.

This year’s starts are crawling along at a pace below 600,000 units. And keep in mind our population has grown by about a quarter since those dark days of the early ’80s.

David Kohler gave the keynote address at the 2009 ASA Convention during mid-October. He predicted housing starts wouldn’t climb above 1 million units again until 2011, and then would continue to limp along a little above that level for years afterward.

I was thinking, how far we’ve fallen when a year of 1 million housing starts is cause for cheer.


Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Supply House Times. Stay connected with us via social media.

Recent Articles by Jim Olsztynski

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

BNP Media's Plumbing Group Visits Grundfos North American Headquarters

BNP Media’s Plumbing Group, comprised of the Plumbing & Mechanical, Supply House Times, PM Engineer (pme) and Reeves Journal brands, recently visited Grundfos’ new North American headquarters building in the western Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Ill.

8/26/14 1:00 pm EST

Free Webinar: Low Temperature Heat Emitter Options in Hydronic Systems

With proper design, you can create systems that require supply water temperatures no higher than 120° F under design load conditions.

Supply House Times


2014 December

The December issue of SHT featured Supply House Times on the Road: AD Chairman and CEO Bill Weisberg talks inspiration at annual meeting; Distributor roundtable: Smart bets; and much more!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Where do you look for new employees?

Where do you look for new employees?
View Results Poll Archive

The Supply House Times Store

2015 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator

Every plumbing and HVAC estimator can use the cost estimates in this practical manual!

More Products

Clear Seas Research

CS-OflRGBhomepage.jpgWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


facebook Twitter Updated icon Youtube Updated icon    LinkedIn Updated icon  Google+

Premier 125

Premier 125 button

The information SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES uses to rank the Premier 125 is the most accurate we can gather. It is primarily based on responses to a questionnaire we send to the wholesalers in our database, supplemented with information obtained from industry reports and estimates.