Suburbs Experienced Higher Density Development in 2015

April 18, 2016

Multifamily development activity surged during 2015 in DC’s suburban counties, while single-family development (including townhomes and detached homes) cooled in the core market areas. Along with continued multifamily activity in the most densely populated counties, we saw significant increases in multifamily permits in several suburban counties: Frederick and Prince George’s in Maryland, Jefferson County in West Virginia, and Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia.

The change in multifamily permit volume varied widely by county. While total permits issued in the District of Columbia last year increased 18.3%, based entirely on an 800-unit increase in the number of multifamily permits it issued, the pace of multifamily permit activity in the close-in counties suffered sharp declines.

Jurisdictions with the largest annual percentage declines in permit activity included:

  1. Frederick, MD. On the fringes of the DC market, Frederick County’s 63.7% increase in total permit activity resulted from a resurgence of multifamily permits issued during 2015, following a dearth of multifamily activity in 2014. And, the 2015 multifamily total (563 units) outpaced the 2013 multifamily total (498 units) by 13.0% due to the introduction of two new multifamily complexes, Urban Green in Urbana and Jefferson Technology Park at the intersection of Routes 15 and 340.

  2. Jefferson, WV. Also a distant suburb, Ranson in Jefferson County issued 100 multifamily permits in 2015 and 0 in 2014. In fact, these multifamily permits were for the first apartment building permitted in the city in at least 18 years. With essentially flat single-family permit activity throughout the entire county (about 400 units each year), multifamily activity generated a 52.0% annual increase in total permits.

Jurisdictions with the largest annual percentage declines in permit activity included:

1. Alexandria/Arlington, VA. Following a 98% annual increase from 2013 to 2014, Alexandria and Arlington (combined) issued only 407 multifamily permits in 2015, down from 3,293 units in 2014 (-87.6%). The multifamily construction boom near the District since the recession, following a surge in population and demand among millennials, created a large pipeline of pending apartment deliveries.

2. Montgomery, MD. Also close to the District and experiencing substantial multifamily development in recent years, particularly in transit-oriented locations, Montgomery County issued 72.7% fewer multifamily permits in 2015 (only 658 units) than in 2014 (2,408 units). Permit activity in 2014 was at least partially bolstered by the uncertainty surrounding the pending change in the permit fee structure that became effective in 2015.

3. Fauquier, VA. Issuing multifamily permits only rarely, outlying Fauquier County issued 29.8% fewer single-family permits in 2015 than in 2014 (198 vs. 282), even with the continued progress of Mint Brook by Ryan Homes in Bealeton.

Jurisdictions with the largest number of total building permits in 2015 included:

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