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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.
The past two and half years have been the most tumultuous time for the rental market in recent memory. Much of that tumult can be traced back to the way that the pandemic has changed the ways that we live and work. In the earliest phases of the pandemic, many of the nation’s large cities saw sharp rent declines as a subset of renters with newly remote working arrangements moved away from expensive downtown areas that had temporarily lost their vibrancy, in search of more space in the surrounding suburbs. At the same time, widespread job losses also forced many workers to give up leases they could no longer afford. In the time since, big city rent prices have bounced back as employment has rebounded and return to work plans have begun to materialize. But it’s still the suburbs that have continued to see the fastest rent growth. Heightened demand for suburban rentals could continue as an ongoing trend, particularly as a sizable share of the workforce maintains some level of remote work flexibility, and as the large Millennial population continues to age into their “settling down” phase. In this report, we explore in detail how this trend has been playing out in our rent data.
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