Rents Are Rising in the US – What You Can Do to Soften the Blow

Modern brick and stucco condo buildings with balconies and garages.
dbvirago / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rents are rising at their fastest clip in years as the U.S. economy continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a development that will no doubt make rental companies happy but could spell trouble for tenants still struggling to make ends meet.

Find: Are You Actually Spending Your Child Tax Credit Payment? Take Our Poll
See: How the Child Tax Credit and Other Stimulus Packages Benefit the Full Economy and Not Just Recipients

The good news is, plenty of rental assistance money is still available for Americans who qualify.

According to a new report from Apartment List, the national median rent from January to July 2021 rose by 11.4% — much higher than during the pre-pandemic years of 2017 to 2019, when rent growth from January to July averaged only 3.3%.

In fact, the report said, the first half of 2021 has seen the fastest growth in rent prices since the start of Apartment List’s estimates in 2017. Prices are up more than 10% compared to this time last year and 9.4% compared to the pre-pandemic level from March 2020.

Make Your Money Work for You

“The recent spike has now put actual rents well ahead of the trend they were on prior to the pandemic,” the report said. “The national median rent currently stands at $1,244, which is $44 greater than where we project it would be if rent growth over the past year and a half had been in line with the growth rates we saw in 2018 and 2019.”

In 98 of the nation’s 100 biggest cities, rent growth from January to July 2021 has outpaced the average growth from 2017 to 2019 over the same time period. Rents remain below pre-pandemic levels in only 13 of the nation’s 100 largest cities, and even in these cities, rents have been ticking back up at a furious pace.

For example, San Francisco saw its average rents decline 26.6% from March 2020 through January 2021. But since then, its rents have increased by more than 17%. Boston, Seattle and New York have seen even stronger rebounds.

For cash-strapped Americans who worry about affording the higher prices, plenty of government programs are available to help out. As previously reported in GOBankingRates, more than 360 programs are available across the country that provide money to renters who’ve fallen behind because of the pandemic. The funds total about $46 billion and have been included in the last two major stimulus packages with the aim of helping renters catch up on their payments.

Make Your Money Work for You

See: 17 Dumb Home-Buying Mistakes That Hurt Your Wallet
Find: Credit Scores, Mortgages and Bills, Oh My! 5 Things To Know Before Buying a House

The vast majority of that money is still available. Last week, GOBankingRates noted that only $4.2 billion of the $46 billion has reached households, according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

To be eligible for rental assistance, at least one member of your household must qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they’ve lost income or incurred significant expenses due to COVID-19. You also need to show a risk of homelessness, such as a past due rent notice. Finally, your 2020 income level can’t exceed 80% of your area’s median income, though some states might have different income requirements.

More From GOBankingRates

Share this article:

Make Your Money Work for You

About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
Learn More