More Apartments and Jobs

Two groundbreakings in the last two weeks bring another 331 multi-family units into the Pittsburgh housing market.

Cranberry developer Larry Dorsch and Morgan Management started work on the 149-unit Cosmopolitan at Ross Park, the first new apartment project in Ross Township in decades. The high-end units will be located on the southern access road of the Ross Park Mall at the Cheryl Drive intersection of the McKnight Park East office complex.

Willow Street Associates and Walnut Capital celebrated the start of their Foundry on 41st, a $35 million, 182-unit project being built by PJ Dick. The complex will be between Willow Street and the Allegheny River at 41st Street in Lawrenceville.

The Foundry is an example of the strength of the housing market in the city of Pittsburgh. New Urbanism is often cited as the driver behind the boom (relatively speaking) of the Pittsburgh apartment market. There’s some truth to that, especially in the Downtown market, but the biggest drivers in the city’s multi-family growth have been East End jobs (CMU, Google, UPMC) and the arrival of new product that hasn’t been offered. Where the real impact of urban attraction has shown up is in single-family homes. Pittsburgh has had the third-highest total of new single-family homes. Counting townhomes for sale in with single-family detached units, the number of new homes in Pittsburgh soars above all other communities.

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For housing growth to be sustained there will have to be job growth, of course. Friday’s jobs reports looked spectacular, with 271,000 new jobs created in the U.S. in October. There are reasons to be calm about the results. First is the fact that October’s jump only levels out the declines in September and August, bringing the three-month average to 188,000. That’s not terrible, especially for late summer, but the moving averages show a flattening of the growth curve. Reinforcing that trend is the pattern of revisions.  Because of its methodology, the Bureau of Economic Analysis adjusts the previous two months data as results come in after the reporting month, so this report showed small downward revisions to September and August. More important than the size of the revision is the downward trend. In growing markets, the lagging data tends to add to the previous estimates. The opposite is true in slowing markets. Data from the summer on is suggesting that the arc of the job growth into 2016 will be flat rather than higher, probably averaging closer to 175,000 jobs than 200,000.

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