A single-family house in Washington, Pa. The housing sector is expected to pick up at a “moderate” pace over the next few years.

While multi-family housing continues to shine, single-family housing has been waiting for its big break. The sector is growing, yes, but hesitantly, said Robert Murray, chief economist at Dodge Data & Analytics during last week’s 2016 Dodge Outlook Conference in Washington, D.C.

As part of his presentation, Murray shared key single-family housing data from the company’s new outlook forecast and pointed out why the sector could continue to strengthen.

According to the forecast, home sales are up from a 10-year low in 2009 of around 400,000 units per year to nearly 700,000, new home sales are currently outpacing existing home sales by nearly 30 percent and home prices are increasing at the “moderate pace” of 5 percent year-over-year.

There are several positive factors that would help single-family housing to strengthen, Murray said, including “record-low mortgage rates. 30-year fixed rates are currently residing at about 4 percent, still close to the 3.3 percent bottom reached back in 2012.” Those rates are expected to stay below 4.5 percent throughout 2016, he explained.

He also touched on lending practices.

“Lending standards for home mortgages are still tight, but there are signs that some easing is taking place,” he said, though he admitted that the 20-percent-down-payment requirement is still restraining first-time homebuyer demand, along with high student debt of the millennial generation.

According to Murray, inventory of new homes for sale is at a “very low” five to six months. There are no backlogs, but he asked: “Can housing developers get the funds needed for development?”

The demographic demand is expected to uptick to 1 million to 1.2 million units per year, but Murray admitted there’s a gray area with Millennials. “Will they stay in their urban apartments?” he asked.

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