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Rents Are Going Up Quickly, Everywhere

July 20, 2021

Visualizing Rent Growth Across the Country

The chart below provides a bird's eye view of rent changes in the United States over time. Each row represents one of the nation's 100 largest cities, sorted from most-populous at the top (New York City, NY) to least-populous at the bottom (Tacoma, WA). Each column represents a month, from January 2018 to June 2021. The color of each cell represents the extent to which rent prices went up (red) or down (blue) in that city in that month.

The Pandemic-Era Rent Story

In 2018 and 2019, rent growth in most cities followed a fairly predictable seasonal trend. Vertical bands of red and blue show how prices typically rise during Spring and Summer and then fall during the Winter.

The pattern obviously broke in April 2020, when prices fell nearly everywhere for three consecutive months. These are the months when families were instructed to shelter-in-place and many renters moved in with family, opening vacancies and dramatically slowing activity in the rental market.

The second half of 2020 was characterized by stark regional variation in rent growth. Many smaller, more-affordable markets saw prices rebound quickly, and in cities such as Boise, ID and Fresno, CA, rent growth actually -began to surpass pre-pandemic levels. But a handful of dark blue horizontal bars represent the expensive, urban markets where prices fell precipitously throughout the year. In some, like San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle, prices fell more than 20 percent throughout the year.

But in 2021, regional differences have given way to rapid, ubiquitous price increases. Since January 2021, our national price index has increased 9.2 percent, a dramatic increase over the 2-3 percent growth we recorded in pre-pandemic years. And the markets where rents are rising the fastest today include a combination of smaller cities that got pricier in 2020 and larger urban centers that got cheaper in 2020. The table below shows the 15 cities with the fastest 2021 rent growth to date.

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Rob Warnock
Rob is a senior research associate at Apartment List, where he examines trends in the housing and rental markets. Previously he worked in public health policy, and before that, graduated from UCLA with a degree in Globalization. Read More
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