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What’s behind significant rent increases in some U.S. cities?

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A 'now leasing' sign is displayed outside of an apartment building on March 11, 2022 in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Some markets across the U.S. have seen double-digit percent increases in apartment rents. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

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Rents are rising faster than they have in years. In the few years before the pandemic, rents were generally going up about 3% from one year to the next.

But right now, “we’re seeing a 15% increase in rents across the nation,” said Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a senior research associate at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

There are some markets right now where rents are up more than 20% or 30% over last year, she said. “The rent increases that we’re seeing right now across the nation are really unprecedented. We haven’t seen national rent growth like this.”

The simple answer for why this is happening? “Wild demand and very limited supply,” said Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List.

The main reason there’s so much demand right now is there are a lot more households than there were at the beginning of the pandemic.

“People that would have searched with roommates are now searching alone,” Popov said. “People that would have lived with their parents are moving out.”

And, he said, wages have gone up enough that many people can afford those rising rents — at least for now.

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