Top Federal Reserve officials’ predictions that they would have to cut interest rates three times next year sent a bolt of energy through markets last week.

Bond markets celebrated. Stock traders got giddy, judging by how fast the Dow rose Wednesday afternoon.

And doubtless more than a few bankers were relieved at the thought of lower deposit costs while prospective homeowners and developers likely began eagerly awaiting the point at which residential mortgages and construction loans become more affordable.

But no one, especially policymakers in town halls or on Beacon Hill, should think we’re about to get some kind of relief from current market conditions.

First, it’s entirely unclear when these forecasted rate cuts will take place. The headlines you may have read are based on a document nicknamed the “dot plot” that’s released along with the results of each meeting by the Fed’s benchmark interest rate-setting committee. That document contains no additional information beyond the fact that a majority of committee members thought the Fed’s key interest rate would likely be 75 basis points (another way of saying three-quarters of a percentage point) lower by the end of 2024.

Why does this matter? If the Fed waits until after the spring to begin to cut rates, that’s the better part of a year’s worth of home sales gone by under current, very restrictive interest rates. And knowing how much pent-up demand there is to buy homes, yet how reluctant sellers seem to be to list, there’s plenty of reason to think the Fed will want to slow-walk its rate cuts once we’re past peak buying frenzy.

Likewise, housing developers – the people we’re all relying on to get us out of this housing-cost mess over the long term – will still be saddled with current interest rates as they plan out 2024. A few may be willing to take a flyer on the idea that rate cuts are coming, and move projects forward regardless. But today’s interest rates still make construction loans flat-out too expensive for most projects to take out right now, and that won’t change until the Fed actually cuts rates.

Second, a 75-basis-point-fall in the benchmark Federal Reserve interest rate won’t magically fix the other high costs hobbling multifamily construction right now. Notably, demand for construction services is still quite high, and the construction workforce is still far too low thanks in part to decades of bad education and immigration policies that shrank the industry’s talent pipeline. This gives contractors power to keep charging high prices, and it’s unclear how much that will abate since the region has lots of important infrastructure projects that also need to draw from the same pool of labor.

So don’t give up on efforts to streamline permitting costs with rezoning or pushes to puzzle out incentives and new policies to make building reasonably priced housing pencil. We’re far from out of the woods.

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Don’t Celebrate Fed Rate Cuts Yet

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min