We’ve solidly on the cusp of Gemini, school’s getting out most everywhere and the Administration makes some hardly recognizable sounds about raising CAFE standards. Coincidence? I think not.
But really, when you consider things that ordinarily do not go together, new CAFE requirements and the drop in new home starts should not be among them.
New home construction fell to its lowest pace on record in April, the government reported on Tuesday, disappointing forecasters, who had hoped for a modest increase. Building permits fell to record lows and construction on new multi-family units plunged.
“The writing’s on the wall in the construction industry,” said Joseph Brusuelas, director at Moody’s Economy.com. “This is a function of the oversupply in the market. There’s just simply too much supply on the market, and construction starts will have to continue to contract.”
Aw. Everyone hates disappointment, especially so close to summer. But it remains the case that there was an extensive boom in housing construction over the last nineteen-plus years and most of it was the wrong kind of houses built in the wrong kinds of places.
And surely, even the non-trivial rise in CAFE standards has its limits, mainly as it does nothing about used cars and leaves the price of gas untouched. But the CAFE rules are just one tool among many; they were too low for too long and the automakers screamed every time they were even mentioned. Now that the automakers don’t really exist as such any longer, the screams will be the same, but we should hear them differently. And the longer new homes starts lag, maybe that stat begins to serve as a different kind of indicator to home builders, developers, planning commissions and the like. The age of driving fuel inefficient cars to far-flung suburban houses is mercifully taking a pause. We can take the time to re-think the entire fancy that led to both as if it’s deliberate and not at the point of pain. Like wer’e doing it for our own green future good.