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COVID-19

Rents are falling in some cities

Amy Scott Aug 19, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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An apartment rental sign in Los Angeles, where prices are sliding. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Rents are falling in some cities

Amy Scott Aug 19, 2020
An apartment rental sign in Los Angeles, where prices are sliding. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Amanda Kass renewed her lease in Menlo Park, California, back in February, thinking she was getting a good deal because the landlord wasn’t raising the rent.

“Little did we know how much things would change in just a month,” she said.

Since then, the market has changed dramatically. When a neighbor in her building moved out last month, Kass said, “the unit he had been in rented for 20% less than he had been paying, and that was after it sat vacant for a month.”

Kass’ neighbor worked in tech and could do his job remotely, which is one reason some of the biggest rent declines have been in Silicon Valley. In nearby San Francisco, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is down 12% from a year ago, according to apartment search company Zumper. San Jose, California, has seen a 5.7% decline.

Job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic have also disproportionately hurt renters, who are more likely to live in cities, economists say, reducing demand. Average rents are down 7% in New York City and Los Angeles, and 3% in Boston.

Tourism-dependent cities like Orlando, Florida; Miami and Honolulu are also seeing declines, said Igor Popov, chief economist with Apartment List.

“So many of those jobs, they can never go remote, so they’ve had a hard time during the shelter-in-place era,” he said.

Nationally, real estate firm CBRE predicts multifamily rents will fall by about 8% this year and not fully recover until 2022.

“The unknown is what is going to be the economic fallout that we haven’t seen yet,” said Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association.

Generally, urban areas are seeing bigger declines — or slower growth — in rents than suburban markets, according to a recent report from Zillow. But Zillow economist Joshua Clark said the flight from cities may be overstated. Rents in Kansas City, Missouri; Detroit, Baltimore and Riverside, California, are growing — and faster than in the suburbs.

It’s tempting to imagine urbanites fleeing to the suburbs for good, said Clark, who left his rental apartment in Seattle to live with family in Westchester County, New York.

“But I think what we’re seeing right now is a temporary shift,” he said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of people who can move out of the city that will return to the city once things go back to normal and their favorite bar, restaurant, museums start to open up again.”

And, he said, those who do return might be able to score a deal on the rent.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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