Rents increase dramatically as evictions loom

Even as the Delta variant threatens to drag the U.S. back into the health and economic crises of the past 17 months, landlords across America—bolstered by the end of emergency eviction moratoriums and a general return to urban life by those who fled from the virus—are jacking up rents. 

New data shows that rent has increased by 11.4% between January and July of 2021, as landlords tried to recoup lost funds from a tumultuous year. That’s significantly higher than pre-pandemic rates. Rent increased by about 3% in those months between 2017 and 2019.

Even with rent drops during the height of the pandemic, July data collected by Apartment List found that the average rent across the U.S. is up 9.4% compared with the pre-pandemic level from March 2020. The national median rent for all newly contracted single-family units stands at $1,244, which is a notable increase from where it would have been if growth rates had continued steadily during the pandemic. 

And rent is increasing not just in coastal cities. It’s booming in nearly every major market in the country; 2021 rent growth is outpacing average growth from 2017 to 2019 in 98 of the 100 largest cities

At the same time, new analysis finds that wage growth has remained relatively stagnant for Americans, and may have actually decreased when factoring in inflation. Real wages, which measure income after accounting for the costs of goods and services Americans need, fell by almost 2% on average last month compared with 2020, according to BLS data.  

The changes also come as a nationwide eviction moratorium expired last week, allowing landlords to oust renters who cannot pay en masse. The Biden administration issued a last-minute emergency extension, but it is limited in scope and time, and for many it was issued too late. Police forces around the country are preparing to conduct eviction raids. In New Orleans, eviction officers were required to get a COVID-19 vaccination in order to prepare for what their chief is calling a dramatic increase in evictions.  

Some states, like New York, have implemented rent relief programs to aid those who lost income owing to the pandemic and can’t afford to pay back rent to avoid eviction. But on Tuesday New York State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, the chair of the senate housing committee, said that just six dozen households have been helped by the program, out of more than 160,000 applicants. 

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