: Rents are still dropping in some parts of the country — but these tenants are missing out


Some Americans are still enjoying lower rents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. By and large, that doesn’t include low-income renters.

Nationwide, the rental market has begun to show signs of bouncing back from the pandemic-induced downturn, according to data released this month from Zillow

In February, the typical rent at the national level was up 0.4% year-over-year, the real-estate company reported. That represents the second month in a row in which rents at the national level have risen.

The migration trends sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to hit certain rental markets hard, and those markets are still seeing lower prices. Unfortunately, low-income Americans are unlikely to be among those who are saving money on housing as a result.

“Renters themselves, already disproportionately impacted by pandemic-related job losses, have not realized meaningful gains in affordability even among those lucky enough to remain employed — to say nothing of those reliant on tenuous unemployment assistance to help pay their bills,” Zillow economist Arpita Chakravorty wrote in the report.

So why don’t low-income Americans have a good shot at saving money? It’s because the rent cuts that have occurred throughout the pandemic are concentrated largely in the most expensive rental markets.

The markets with the largest rent decreases are among the priciest in the country: Boston (-5.6%), San Francisco (-5.2%) and New York (-4.3%). And even within these cities, the largest rent decreases occurred in the most expensive neighborhoods. In New York, the wealthiest neighborhoods witnessed an 11.6% decline year over year in rent prices in February, while the most affordable parts of the city saw rents rise 1.8% over that same period of time.

Plus, despite these declines, these markets are far from affordable. The average rent in San Francisco’s most expensive neighborhoods was $3,380 per month, well above the national average of $2,174.

Outside of these pricey coastal markets, rents are on the up. In cities like Atlanta, Houston and Detroit, those rent increases have largely occurred most notably in what are traditionally the most affordable areas.

“Rising rents in the low-tier ZIP codes, where median income is approximately $50,000, in addition to challenges brought on by the pandemic, have only compounded the difficulties of the vulnerable renters in these places,” Chakravorty wrote.

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