Rent Continues to Rise in America

This article was written by Mary Schwartz. It was originally published on December 7, 2017 in the Census blog, Random Samplings.

The nation experienced an overall average increase of $21 in median gross rent according to statistics released from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates, compared to 2007-2011 ACS five-year estimates results, which have been adjusted for inflation.

Gross rent is the contract rent plus the estimated average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer) and fuels (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.) if these are paid by the renter (or paid for the renter by someone else).

Changes in Metropolitan Gross Rents

Of the 382 metropolitan areas in the United States, the median gross rent in 156 areas did not change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016, and seven would not allow for comparison due to boundary changes. Of the 219 that did change, increases outnumbered decreases four to one with 175 increases and 44 decreases.

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., was among the metro areas with the greatest increase in gross rent, with an increase of $246 from 2007 to 2011 to 2012 to 2016 (from $1,555 to $1,801).
  • Carson City, Nev., experienced one of the largest decreases in gross rent, with a decrease of $158 (from $985 to $827).

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The 50 most populous metropolitan areas mirrored all metros in that increases outnumbered decreases four to one with 32 increases, eight decreases, and nine had no changes.

Changes in Micropolitan Gross Rents

Of the 551 U.S. micropolitan areas, the median gross rent in 360 areas did not change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016 and 45 would not allow for comparisons due to boundary changes. Of the 146 areas that did change, increases outnumbered decreases more than two to one with 107 increases and 39 decreases.

  • Among the micropolitan areas with the highest increases in gross rent was Andrews, Texas, which had a $352 increase (from $608 to $960).
  • Clewiston, Fla., had one of the largest decreases in gross rent, with a decrease of $152 (from $844 to $692).

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County-Level Gross Rent Changes

In the 264 counties with 250,000 or more people, the median gross rent in 79 did not change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016. Of the 185 that did change, increases outnumbered decreases by more than four to one with 151 increases and 34 decreases.

  • At $252, Santa Clara County, Calif., had one of the greatest increases in gross rent (from $1,561 to $1,813).
  • Among this group, Clark County, Nev., had one of the largest decreases in gross rent with a decrease of $108 (from $1,121 to $1,013).

In counties with 35,000 and 49,999 people, 241 of 322 counties had gross rents that didn’t change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016. Of the counties with changes, increases outnumbered decreases 2 to 1 with 56 increases and 25 decreases.

  • Among the counties with the largest increase was Isle of Wight County, Va., which had an increase in gross rent of $208 (from $811 to $1,019).
  • Among the counties with the largest decrease was Hendry County, Fla., which had a decrease of $152 (from $844 to $692).
  • Note that the 2007 to 2011 estimates for Isle of Wight County ($811) and Hendry County ($844) are not statistically different from each other.

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These results were compiled to provide communities with important statistics to measure housing affordability. These data help determine whether adequate housing is affordable for residents and provide and fund housing assistance programs. They also help enforce laws, regulations and policies designed to eliminate discrimination in private-market housing, government programs and in society.

In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development uses these data to establish Fair Market Rents used to determine the level of tenant subsidies in housing assistance programs.