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iStock_000003718663XSmall-Housing-Construction_0-300x199The financial and credit crises in 2007-2009 took their  toll on the entire American economy, and the effects still linger today. The housing sector is is slowly, but a bit unevenly, making a comeback.

Recent Census Bureau figures point to a rosy first quarter that saw permits for new housing rise 8% in April, while the number of new homes under construction rose 13%. That  represents  an annualized 1.07 million new homes expected for 2014.

But here’s the rub: The housing growth isn’t so much in single-family homes sector as it is in multifamily residential rental housing. Permits issued for single-family homes increased by 2,000 units, while multifamily homes rose by 81,000. Housing starts tell the same story: single-family homes came in at 5,000 compared to a soaring 124,000 for multifamily units.

The micro trend is evident in the macro numbers, too. None is more evident than this nugget from the Census Bureau’s April 29 report on residential ownership: After peaking in 2005 at 69.1%, homeownership rates now stand at 64.8%.

The difficulties for single-family residential growth include rising mortgage rates, financially stressed and stretched consumers — particularly millennials who are dealing with a difficult job market  — and burdensome student loans. Shifts in older consumer preferences towards “downsizing” to smaller quarters, particularly in cities, is also a factor. The bottom line of the trend? The growth in multifamily rental unit construction and management will continue well into the remainder of this decade.

Investing in apartment Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) is a great way for investors to get in this growing market for rental properties without having to buy buildings or units on their own. REITs offer juicy dividend yields that leave Treasury yields in the dust.

Here are three great ways to play the new housing reality.

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