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The COVID-19 pandemic made housing affordability a persistent concern throughout 2020. And as we enter the new year, rent payments remain a financial obstacle for many families. According to our latest survey, 30 percent of renters did not make their January payment on-time at the start of the year.1 This is down just slightly from the mid-summer peak when unemployment was at its worst, but up significantly from historic baseline levels.2
For minority renters, the missed payment crisis has been even more damaging. In the fall of 2020, the missed payment rate for non-white renters was nearly 50 percent higher than that of white renters. This is just one of many ways that minority groups are burdened with an outsize share of the pandemic’s economic fallout; beyond housing, people of color have disproportionately experienced loss of employment, loss of health insurance, loss of food security, and more severe health impacts.
As we did throughout much of 2020, our team collected data on housing, race, and financial outcomes using a nationally-representative survey of over 4,000 respondents taken during the first week of January 2021. The findings below highlight how the persistent and unequal effects of 2020’s housing crisis are spilling over into the new year.
- Similar to the surveys we ran throughout much of 2020, this month's nationally-representative survey reached more than 4,000 Americans. It was administered using SurveyMonkey and our results were balanced by gender and age to match the distribution of the nation as a whole.↩
- Data from the 2017 American Housing Survey indicate that in an average month, 3.9 percent of renters will fail to pay full rent. These data are available via the AHS Table Creator.↩
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives in myriad ways over the course of 2020, and housing choice is no exception. In a survey conducted in June, we found that 30 percent of renters were considering putting a pause on moving plans because of the pandemic. At the same time 17 percent of respondents said that the pandemic had made them more likely to move in 2020, either out of financial necessity, a desire to take advantage of falling rents, or because of changing preferences. But among the renters who are continuing to move, how have their housing choices been altered by the pandemic? We analyzed data from millions of Apartment List users to find out.1
- For the purposes of this analysis, we determine each user’s current location based on IP address, and compare that to the location where they’re searching for an apartment. We aggregate these locations at the metro level to identify extended-distance moves. This report is based on data for all users who searched on Apartment List between July 1 and November 24 of 2020.↩
After years of steady price increases, 2020 brought the nation’s rental market to a halt. Typically rents rise during the busy summer season, but this year apartments across the country are on average renting for about two percent less than they were pre-pandemic.
But as we uncovered in our latest National Rent Report, this does not mean that cities are getting universally cheaper. This year, in particular, brings tremendous regional variation. The national rent decline is composed of a handful of expensive cities where rents are falling rapidly (e.g., San Francisco, New York, Seattle), offset by many smaller, more-affordable cities that have actually gotten pricier over the course of the pandemic (e.g., Boise, Fresno, Tucson). In this report we analyze vacancy rates to offer clues about why prices are dropping in some markets and rising in others.
For this we developed a vacancy rate index, which relies on a large sample of apartments in each city whose vacancy status is continuously-observable throughout 2020.1 This “same-property” approach ensures that our vacancy index is not affected by compositional changes in the market, such as new apartment buildings coming online. In this way it is similar to our “same-unit” rent index, which also controls for compositional effects. When we plot these vacancy and rent indices together, we see an inverse relationship: prices fall as vacancies rise, and vice versa, as rental markets across the country struggle to react to the sudden shock of the pandemic.
- Since our vacancy index is calculated from units listed on the Apartment List marketplace, it may skew towards newer multifamily units that make up the majority of inventory on site. A comprehensive city-wide vacancy rate may differ after considering the older units and single-family rentals that are underrepresented on our site.↩
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