As the cost of living continues to rise, the affordability of housing has become a pressing concern for renters, housing providers and policymakers. To assess rental housing affordability at the market level, the National Apartment Association (NAA) analyzed rent-to-income (RTI) percentages, which are based on residential lease applicants from professionally managed properties screened by TransUnion’s Resident Screening platform. Our analysis aims to analyze the changes in rent-to-income ratios over in several major markets across the United States. This issue will primarily focus on the period from Q2 2021 to Q2 2023.
Rental Affordability in the U.S.
During the second quarter of 2023, the apartment market landscape painted a multifaceted picture, revealing key indicators of both growth and decline. A promising shift in the apartment market became evident as quarterly absorption hit a five-quarter high point, with approximately 83,000 units being absorbed, according to data from RealPage. This surge indicates an increased demand for apartments. However, while the absorption rate has improved, the delivery of new apartment units into the market has not slowed down. The new quarterly completions totaled an impressive 107,000 units. In Q2 2023, a 4.0% year-over-year rent growth was recorded nationally. The national occupancy rate experienced a slight dip this quarter. Yet, the silver lining is that the rate of this decline has moderated. The second quarter saw a drop of just 10 basis points, a stark contrast to the 70-90 basis-point dips observed in the last three quarters of 2022. Notably, this is the fifth consecutive quarter where the rate of rent growth has decelerated.
In Q2, U.S. renter households in professionally managed properties spent on average 32.6% of their income on rent. This marks a decrease of 0.4 percentage points since Q2 2022, and a 0.2 percentage point decrease from the previous quarter. Understandably, there was a broad variation in the share of income renters spent on rent at the market level. In this analysis, NAA explores the distribution of rent-to-income percentages across U.S. markets, focusing specifically on areas experiencing notable changes in affordability.
Explore Rent-to-Income Levels at the Market Level
Find out how much income renters in your market are spending towards rent using the table below. Simply click on a column to sort the results by highest or lowest amounts.
- Lakeland: Florida has seen consistent migration of people moving in from other states. With its favorable tax climate, pleasant weather, and promising job opportunities, the Sunshine State is an attractive location for those looking to relocate. Lakeland, situated between Tampa and Orlando, is a prime location for those wanting accessibility without the hustle and bustle of a large metro area. This demand has pushed up housing prices and rent. According to the U.S Census Bureau, The Villages, FL metro area which includes Lakeland, was the fastest growing U.S metro area between 2021 and 2022, increasing by 7.5%. Lakeland has not been able to keep pace with the growing demand in terms of new housing projects. With limited inventory on the market, both buyers and renters face competitive situations, driving up costs. Lakeland had the highest RTI ratio in the nation during Q2 with renters paying 42.3% of their income on rent. It also ranked as the top market for quarterly growth in rent-to-income ratios since Q2 2021, increasing by nearly 8 percentage points. Indicating that affordability challenges have been an ongoing issue.
- Portland, OR: Portland's housing market is grappling with an escalating affordability crisis, with median rent consuming about 38% of residents' incomes. This issue has been exacerbated by Oregon's statewide rent control policies, first introduced in 2019 and revised in June 2023. The state legislature amended Oregon’s rent control law to limit the maximum annual increase to 10%. Though meant to protect renters, these policies have unintentionally tightened affordability, contributing to a 14% drop in detached rental homes in Portland from 2017 to 2020, as small landlords exit the market, according to a study commissioned by Oregon Realtors® and Multifamily Northwest and conducted by ECONorthwest. However, there's potential relief on the horizon. CoStar Group reports a surge in multifamily housing construction, expected to bring 8,000 new multifamily units in the next 18 months. This growth is expected to alleviate some of the strain on the housing market, primarily by increasing vacancy rates which will consequently temper rising rents. These developments highlight the need for a more informed and data-driven approach to housing policy.
- Philadelphia: With the steady decline in rent-to-income ratios since Q2 2021, Philadelphia offers hope to renters looking for urban living without the exorbitant costs. Philadelphia stands out as one of the most affordable markets in the U.S. On average, renters spent 29.3% of their income towards rent during the second quarter. Furthermore, RTI ratios have significantly dropped by more than 4.7 percentage points since Q2 2021. Unlike cities heavily reliant on one sector, Philadelphia boasts a diversified economy, spanning healthcare, education, tech, and more. This market ensures a steady job market and wage growth, making housing more accessible to its residents. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, through the first half of 2023, Philadelphia ranked third in the nation for employment growth, with the addition of 46,300 jobs. Philadelphia has been proactive in urban development, continually adapting to the housing needs of its growing population. In fact, new construction has reached unprecedented levels, with 21,000 units underway. CoStar Group ranks Philadelphia 15th in the nation for ongoing construction among the 390 markets tracked.
Tackling the housing affordability crisis demands more than short-term band-aids. It calls for the enactment of policies that fundamentally increase the stock of affordable homes. This involves a deep, nuanced understanding of the multifaceted factors driving rental markets, including job growth, demand dynamics, construction rates and vacancy trends. For a solution to be both effective and enduring, policymakers must shift focus towards strategies that enhance housing availability, steering clear of measures that inadvertently constrict supply. The bipartisan reintroduction of the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act in Congress is a pivotal development. This legislation sheds light on discriminatory land use policies, advocates for the reduction of onerous regulations and brings transparency to the community development process. The YIMBY Act has the potential to be a catalyst for transformative economic and social change. By passing this act, there is an opportunity to increase housing density, particularly in areas near public transit, which can contribute to more walkable and environmentally cities. The passage of the YIMBY Act represents more than regulatory reform, it's a collective step towards cities that are more inclusive and sustainable.
1. Rent-to-income averages are based on approved residential lease applicants screened by TransUnion’s ResidentScreening platform in Q1 2021 to Q2 2023.
2. Market level analysis was conducted for markets which received over 1,000 applications.
Sources: NAA; TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions; RealPage; Costar Group; U.S Census Bureau; U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics; ECONorthwest