While the two main confidence indexes for multifamily housing increased slightly in the fourth quarter, they both remained in negative territory, according to results from the Multifamily Market Survey (MMS) released today by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The MMS produces two separate indices. The Multifamily Production Index (MPI) increased two points to 34 compared to the previous quarter and the Multifamily Occupancy Index (MOI) increased four points to 49.

The MPI measures builder and developer sentiment about current production conditions in the apartment and condo market on a scale of 0 to 100. The index and all of its components are scaled so that a number below 50 indicates that more respondents report conditions are getting worse than report conditions are improving.

The MPI is a weighted average of three key elements of the multifamily housing market: construction of low-rent units-apartments that are supported by low-income tax credits or other government subsidy programs; market-rate rental units-apartments that are built to be rented at the price the market will hold; and for-sale units—condominiums. The component measuring low-rent units increased five points to 41, the component measuring market rate apartments dropped one point to 38 and the component measuring for-sale units remained even at 23.

The MOI measures the multifamily housing industry's perception of occupancies in existing apartments. It is a weighted average of current occupancy indexes for class A, B, and C multifamily units, and can vary from 0 to 100, with a break-even point at 50, where lower numbers indicate decreased occupancy. The MOI increased four points to 49, indicating that the market is close to being stable.

“Many developers continue to see strong demand for multifamily housing, but in some markets supply is catching up to demand,” said Lance Swank, president and co-owner of Sterling Group, Inc. in Mishawaka, Indiana, and chairman of NAHB’s Multifamily Council. “In most markets, developers face challenges with regulatory costs and delays, and obtaining financing for new construction.”

“It is appropriate that multifamily developers are expressing some caution and that the MPI remains below 50, given the way starts have been outpacing completions,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “This is also consistent with NAHB’s forecast that multifamily production will slow measurably from the very strong rates it sustained through most of 2022.”