Those hoping for a comprehensive survey of the growth of both the size and value of the nation’s apartment sector during the last decade may have found their Holy Grail in a new study commissioned and published by the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and authored by Berkeley, Calif.-based Rosen Consulting Group. Last year, there were 16.1 million apartments in the United States with a total value of $1.3 trillion, according to the survey. In 1990, there were 15.4 million apartments with a total value of $767 billion. The total value of the sector increased an average of 5.5% annually during the 1990s. (Note: The study, which was funded in part by a grant from Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae, only counted apartments located in buildings of at least five units.)

In a statement accompanying the study, Mark Obrinsky, chief economist at NMHC, noted that the survey could benefit the multifamily industry in numerous ways. "First, such an estimate allows the industry to flex its political muscle by showing its size and value," he said. "It enables lenders and equity holders to determine what proportion of the market they represent and to evaluate their exposure."

The study breaks down the apartment sector in other ways as well. It provides a listing of the top 10 apartment markets in terms of both the number of units and total value; the New York metropolitan area tops both lists with 1.8 million units that are valued at $227 billion. The survey also contains the total estimated value of the apartment stock in the top 71 U.S. metropolitan areas.