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This article first appeared in the NAHB Builder Outlook 2021 issue of Pro Builder.

This special supplement from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) examines the trends that will shape the industry over the next few years. But before looking ahead, we need to look back at the lessons we have learned over the last 12 months. Indeed, one point that the COVID-19 pandemic hammered home is that housing is truly essential.

Early in the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security designated construction of single-family and multifamily housing an “Essential Infrastructure Business.” Over the last year, housing has been one of the few economic bright spots, as the industry experienced year-over-year job gains and hired more workers in the wake of the pandemic.

Moreover, single-family construction continued to overperform in suburbs, exurbs and rural communities. This trend is a direct result of the pandemic; as Americans spent more time at home, and the role of the home took on new meaning and renewed importance, buyers and renters increasingly sought out more affordable markets to acquire housing with more space at a lower cost.

Looking forward, NAHB remains confident that the future of housing is bright.

NAHB’s economists expect demand for housing to remain solid through the end of this year because of demographics changes, low mortgage rates and the shift to lower cost suburban markets. But they also expect to see some cooling in growth rates for residential construction in 2021 due to surging lumber and other building material prices, supply chain issues, and regulatory risks. Despite these challenges, one thing is clear: Looking forward, NAHB remains confident that the future of housing is bright.

A key question confronting our industry, and addressed in this supplement, is whether the coronavirus has temporarily or permanently altered buyer preferences or if it has had any impact on what they want in a home and community.

We also delve into other key areas, like how to rebuild the trades, the future of modular homes and offsite construction, the lumber-price crisis, and ideas for a new regulatory framework, to name a few.

As always, markets and business conditions will evolve. We hope this supplement provides information and ideas to guide you through the changes that are happening today and that it better prepares you for the challenges, and opportunities, of tomorrow.