How 2020 Changed the Rental Market

A new report by RentCafé reveals the extent of the pandemic's influence on the rental market—so far.

2 minute read

December 16, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Multi-Family Housing

By Kirill Kulakov / Shutterstock

Irina Lupa shares findings of a year-end rental market report from RentCafé, describing the year as tumultuous and the market as adaptable. Still, the emerging practices of virtual tours and contactless property management were unable to prevent a decline in rental activity in most large cities in the country.

Key findings of the report, with more details included in the source article, include the following:

  • Renting activity was 10% slower in 2020, with a shorter rental season that started with a two-month delay 
  • Gen Z overtook Gen X and is the only renter generation that became more active this year
  • 18 of the 30 largest U.S. cities saw more renters leaving compared to last year
  • Apartment rents decreased in all top 10 most expensive cities for renters in 2020

As summarized by Lupa, the trends of the year do reveal fundamental changes to the rental market—changes that will have a direct impact on the social and economic makeup of the country once the coronavirus is finally and completely defeated.

A new cohort of renters, Generation Z, is now the second most active group of renters, overtaking Gen X-ers, while the front-runner generation of Millennial renters is shrinking. In terms of moving, there was an increase in renters who decided to move out of some large cities in 2020, including Detroit, New York and Seattle. And finally, 2020 was the year when rent prices fell in all of the nation’s ten most expensive large cities for renters, with San Francisco, New York, Boston and Seattle in the lead.

In addition to the more documented and discussed factors contributing to these trends, the article also notes that renters are dealing with stagnant wages for the first time in years, and provides specific data on rental prices and rental activities in cities all over the country.

Given that eviction moratoriums are still in place at numerous levels of government around the country, and stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are being added in numerous locations around the country as a third wave of infections takes a terrible toll on the country, the pandemic's influence on the rental market in cities is likely to be felt for several years to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2020 in RentCafé

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

6 hours ago - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

7 hours ago - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

April 22 - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.