As U.S. home sales and prices continue to fall, experts predict the slump will carry into next year, while builders cut back on new starts. The National Association of Realtors released its sales forecast yesterday, predicting existing home sales to fall 5.6% to 6.11 million for 2007.
According to the trade group, home prices will drop 1.4%, and single-family housing starts for 2008 will likely fall to their lowest level since 1995. In addition, purchases of appliances and home supplies are expected to drop, with spending on residential construction thought to fall 1%. The National Association of Home Builders has projected a 23% drop in the number of new single-family house starts for this year versus 2006, followed by a 2% increase in starts in 2008.
Reasons for the market downturn include stricter mortgage standards, a glut of properties and rising interest rates. The market predictions have considerable implications for the environment, since homes represent one of our biggest uses of energy and resources. New home construction is a major driver of urban and suburban sprawl, which has long been one of the biggest threats to wildlife, as habitat is replaced with concrete, housing tracts and fragmented bits of green space that lack the value of continuous wilderness.
A silver lining to the slowdown in the housing market could therefore be lessened pressure on natural systems. The decrease in spending on home improvements will likely be a mixed blessing as far as the environment is concerned. On one hand, unneeded extras may be avoided, reducing overall consumption.
On the other, some consumers may not be able to afford upgrades to more efficient and green features, resulting in more waste over time. Hopefully, communities will be able to parlay the disappointing economic news into developing smarter communities. Perhaps price adjustments will help spur more interest in revitalizing and reclaiming underused urban centers.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.