Expensive gateway metros continue to see biggest rent decreases

Multifamily rents dropped by 10 basis points on a month-over-month basis in September, shedding another $1 to fall to $1,463, according to data from Yardi Matrix.

Rents are now down $8 nationally from February’s pre-pandemic numbers, Yardi noted in its latest Matrix Multifamily National Report. On the bright side, however, rents have only been up or down by a few dollars each month — a far cry from the stark declines that many observers originally feared when the COVID-19 crisis took hold across the country.

Year over year, rents are down 0.3% in September, a slight decrease from the 0.2% annual backtrack seen in August. September’s year-over-year data followed a trend that has held true since the beginning of the pandemic: Expensive gateway metros have seen rents retreat the most, while less pricey cities have shown more rent resilience.

The best-performing metros on a year-to-year basis in September, for example — California’s Inland Empire (which saw rents grow 3.4% year over year), Sacramento (3.1%), Phoenix (2.8%) and Indianapolis (2.8%) — were among those near the top of the list in February, and all are 18-hour markets with comparatively lower costs of living.

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On the other hand, many of the cities that sputtered in February have yet to recover. San Francisco, for example, continues to struggle to maintain positive rent movement, with a steep decline of 5.8% in September. While the Bay Area’s largest city still logged positive yearly rent growth (1.7%) in February, it sank to the bottom of Yardi’s top 30 market rankings. Other struggling markets like Austin (-2.9% in September) and Orlando (-2.5%) were similarly flagging at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

Still, despite the uncertainty that has upended many rental markets, rent collections have fared generally well. Some 92.2% of apartment households were able to make a full or partial rent payment by September 27, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s (NMHC) Rent Payment Tracker. That’s up just slightly from 92.1% in August, though down from 93.7% in September last year.

When rolling back the date to earlier in the month, that figure does suffer some. About 86.8% of apartment households, for example, made a full or partial rent payment by October 13, up from 86.2% in September but down from 89.2% in October 2019. The NMHC has been resolute in calling for further action by the government to support renters since extended unemployment benefits terminated at the end of the summer.

“Perceived quick fixes like eviction moratoriums do nothing to solve the underlying economic problems residents are facing and could jeopardize the stability of the housing market and the financial health of our communities,” said Doug Bibby, president of the NMHC. “Congress and the administration must act to avert a future housing crisis.”


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