Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Rent Down 1% Locally Since Start of Pandemic

Rent prices had originally increased as pandemic took hold, but are now falling.

By - Jan 15th, 2021 01:00 pm
Jefferson Block Apartments, 144 N. Jefferson St. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Jefferson Block Apartments, 144 N. Jefferson St. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Residential rent prices are down 1% since March according to a new report from Apartment List, a property listing website.

That’s good news for renters and in sharp contrast to the company’s August report, when Milwaukee rents had grown by 0.7% since March as the pandemic appeared to be increasing demand in a number of mid-sized cities.

Rents are now down on average 1.5% across the country since March 1st.

San Francisco leads the pack with a 26.7% decline. Milwaukee neighbors Chicago (13.2%) and Minneapolis (12.8%) also appear in the top 10 list for biggest declines. Other formerly hot, coastal markets make the biggest loser list, including New York City and Seattle.

Some cities have seen rent prices increase since the pandemic began, led by Boise (9.7%). Four of the top 10 cities are in California, but none are the state’s premier cities. Fresno leads the Golden State cohort with a 7.9% increase since March.

“Expensive coastal cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City are continuing to see rents fall rapidly, while traditionally affordable mid-sized cities such as Boise have actually become more expensive over the course of the pandemic,” wrote the report authors Chris Salviati, Igor Popov and Rob Warnock.

According to data from Apartment List, the median one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee rents for $737, a two-bedroom unit for $905.

Rental prices fell 0.2% in Milwaukee over the past month, while the national average fell 0.4%. The listing service attributes the recent decline to a seasonal variation it has seen in each of the past three years, albeit slightly steeper. Prices began rising as temperatures increased in years prior.

Since the pandemic began, rental price drops are concentrated in bigger cities. Apartment List has identified that principal cities have seen an average rent decline of 9.3% while suburban communities have seen a 0.5% increase.

Data is not available for Milwaukee suburbs, but the company reports that rents in Madison are down 0.1% since March and climbed 0.4% in the past month.

“Vacancy data from our online marketplace help explain the strong regional divides described throughout this report. The pandemic has led to more vacancies in some cities and fewer in others, as renters have new budgets and new housing preferences,” wrote the authors.

The pandemic could continue to bring more change to the rental market.

A second report from the organization, centered on renter survey results, says that 28% of renters entered 2021 with unpaid rent bills from prior months. That’s down from 33% in October.

The problem is greater amongst minority communities. Based on survey data, 53% of Black renters reported having unpaid rent bills, followed by 38% of Hispanic renters, 27% of Asian renters and 21% of white renters.

Black renters reporting unpaid bills jumped from 47% to 53% since the October survey, while Hispanic renters reporting unpaid bills fell from 56% to 38%.

Apartment List reports that 3.9% of renters fail to pay their rent in full in an average month based on 2017 US Census Bureau data. Another organization reports a much bigger figure.

A National Multifamily Housing Council report says that 21.7% of households made a full or partial rental payment over the first six days of January 2020 and that the rate fell by 1.7 percentage points in the same period of 2021.

The survey relied on more than 4,000 responses balanced by gender and age to match the national distribution.

To calculate the rental statistics Apartment List uses data from the US Census Bureau and transaction price estimates and makes comparisons between units available in both sample periods to filter out new, high-end housing being introduced. It previously relied on listing data, but switched to transaction data in September in an attempt to produce a more accurate representation and better understand factors like seasonal changes.

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