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The widespread adoption of remote work arrangements has played a key role in explaining the turbulence that has characterized the rental market since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Newfound geographic flexibility has allowed workers to relocate from expensive markets to more affordable ones, and to spread out from the urban cores of large metros to their farther flung suburbs. Even as some employers have asked workers to return to the office, it seems clear that remote work will continue to be far more prevalent going forward than it was at any point prior to the pandemic. Recent Census data shows that the share of Americans who work primarily from home tripled from 2019 to 2021. In a recent survey, we found that the flexibility afforded by remote work is indeed leading to higher rates of mobility and shifting geographic preferences. Given their heightened propensity to move, remote workers have been having a disproportionate impact on housing market trends, and this is expected to continue into 2023 and beyond.
Since 2020, the rental market has been on a roller coaster ride, characterized by abrupt swings. That ride continued in 2022, but this year also brought with it a slow return to normalcy in the market, as rent growth cooled and inventory opened back up. And for the past several months now, rents have been dipping, a modest sign of relief for renters who have been squeezed by both skyrocketing housing costs and non-housing inflation.
Looking ahead to 2023, there’s still significant uncertainty about what the economy has in store, but there’s good reason to believe that renters will have more bargaining power than they have in years. As we close out the year, the Apartment List research team has rounded up our summary of the key rental market trends that defined 2022 and those that we expect to define 2023.
With the 2022 midterm elections in less than two weeks, economic issues are taking center stage. Throughout this year, inflation has been running at its hottest pace in four decades, and there are growing fears that the Fed’s efforts to push back could induce a recession in the year ahead. Skyrocketing housing costs have been a key component of inflation, and one that could constitute a wedge issue between renters and homeowners. Most homeowners are locked into fixed monthly mortgage payments, and for those that already owned at the start of the pandemic, quickly rising home values have been primarily experienced as a boon to their net worths. In contrast, renters are bearing the full brunt of rising rent prices (nationwide, the median rent is up 23.4 percent since March 2020), and many of those hoping to purchase homes have been priced out of the for-sale market.
We’ve argued in the past that increased political engagement among a coalition of renters could have the potential to swing elections, and the upcoming midterms could prove to be a turning point where such a movement gains momentum. Renters have historically voted at far lower rates than homeowners, but that gap has been narrowing in recent years. Mobilizing renters could be a winning strategy for Democrats, the party that renters tend to favor by a wide margin. But given their present state of economic frustration and disenchantment, this large voting bloc could present an opportunity for either party. In this report, we explore the potential of a renter voting bloc to disrupt national elections, incorporating data on renter voting trends in prior elections, as well as a brand new survey of their current political concerns.
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