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Rent Growth Continues Outpacing Pre-Pandemic Levels

There's no stopping rent growth as median rent climbs.

Rent growth across the U.S. has continued its hot stretch, leaving pre-pandemic data in the rearview mirror. The latest Apartment List National Rent Report shows the national median rent has jumped 11.4% in 2021, more than triple what was seen in pre-pandemic years. Rent growth from January to July in 2017-2019 increased 3.3% on average. The national index increased 2.5% from June to July, but data differs market to market.

The national index is up 9.4% since March 2020, and the national median rent is $1,244—$44 more than predicted based on growth rates from 2018 and 2019. All but two markets of the nation’s top 100 largest cities have outpaced pre-pandemic rent growth. The largest coastal locations that saw many renters exit are rebounding without looking back. San Francisco saw rents drop more than 26%, but rents have increased 17% since January. Boston, Seattle and New York have seen even greater movement, each up more than 21% since the start of the year. Despite this, San Francisco is still down 14% since March 2020, while Seattle is down 5% and New York is behind 3%.

Mid-sized markets continue to thrive during the pandemic, with Boise, Idaho, leading the way at 39% rent growth since March 2020. Spokane, Wash., is in at second with a 32% increase, while Fresno, Calif., was a distant third at 26%. All but two markets—Tampa, Fla., and Chesapeake, Va.,—are in the West. Four of the top 10 markets are Phoenix suburbs. While the rise in rent in mid-sized markets is staggering, it is by no means due to the pandemic alone. Between 2017-2019, rents in some of these cities were on similar trajectories.

The affordability gap has also decreased between markets. The median two-bedroom rent for San Francisco was $3,146 in March 2020, nearly 3.5 times more than a two-bedroom in Boise. The gap has closed significantly. Currently, the median rent in San Francisco is $2,708, just twice as much as Boise, which saw median rent on two-bedrooms climb from $929 in March 2020 to $1,307 in the most recent report.