U.S. Rents Spiking As More Renters Enter the Market

All of the nation's largest metro areas are experiencing sharp growth in costs and demand for rental housing, posing even more challenges for low-income renters.

October 11, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Apartment for Rent

ah_fotobox / Shutterstock

Rent prices, along with demand, are continuing to rise sharply in cities across the U.S. While markets like Phoenix and Boise have seen some of the sharpest spikes, writes Patrick Sisson, "[i]t’s a nationwide phenomenon that’s having a significant impact on housing markets, affordability and access."

All 100 of the nation's largest metro areas have experienced "month-over-month rent growth over the last five months, according to Apartment List economist Christopher Salviati," while Zillow data shows a national increase of 11.5% since last August. Unlike the residential housing market, which spiked early in the pandemic, says data journalist Jeff Andrews, "[t]he rental market is more of a slow matriculation. It takes a while for that backlog of renters to build up who should have cycled out of the market."

This growth coincides with the end of many eviction moratoriums and the end of expanded unemployment benefits. "Landlords are raising rents, and those getting back into the housing market have been shocked by the sharp increases from just a year ago." Meanwhile, "instability is rampant" and "[e]very open unit is flooded with multiple applications." Recipients of rental assistance vouchers are falling even further behind as higher-income renters enter the market and drive up demand.

"Today’s renters are impacted by the echo of the temporary but significant slowdown in new construction after the Great Recession. Those units, unbuilt due to a pause in construction, would have provided more slightly older and affordable options." Although multifamily construction is happening at a rapid pace, much of it caters to high-income renters.

"Salviati says that Apartment List data shows the vacancy rate slightly rising and growth rate slowing, so prices may stop accelerating at such a rapid clip, but there’s no indication prices will reverse, suggesting the affordability issues this rapid rent increase causes will be an ongoing concern."

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

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