Engineered wood product output will grow between 25% and 33% by 2020, according to the Fall 2015 Forecast by APA – The Engineered Wood Association. That should bode well for LBM dealers as the housing market continues its gradual recovery.
APA’s 2015-2020 Market Outlook for structural panels and engineered wood products forecasts that demand for North American-made structural panels will increase 21% by 2020, from 31.5 billion square feet to 38 billion, largely in response the increase in housing starts to 1.5 million units by the end of the decade.
APA’s forecast for an uptick in demand for structural panels and engineered wood doesn’t surprise J.D. Saunders, the 2014-2015 chairman of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and vice president of Economy Lumber in Campbell, Calif. “We’ve already experienced an increase in demand, and part of that is attributable to the recovery of the housing market,” he says.
In fact, APA’s Market Outlook notes that although the U.S. homeownership rate is expected to trend lower through 2020 as interest rates rise, the improving economy could push household growth as high as 1.3 million per year over the next three to five years.
Several factors are dampening the potential for stronger growth in homebuilding. Young would-be homeowners are delaying marriage as they pay off historically high levels of student debt and their projected incomes are unlikely to keep pace with the rise in mortgage payments as home prices and interest rates rise. In addition, first-time home-buyers continue to struggle to meet strict mortgage lending standards to qualify for home loans. Many of the households they form in the near future are likely to be living in rented apartments, as described in the APA report.
Despite the lag created by these factors, U.S. housing starts could increase by 35% between now and 2020, according to APA’s forecast, as stronger household growth, gains in employment, improved consumer confidence and historically low interest rates contribute to increasingly brisk sales of new and existing homes.