The prevailing narrative across much of California during the pandemic has been that rents have fallen dramatically in the state’s most populated urban centers, as residents fled in search of more space, causing rents in suburban and ex-urban areas to increase in turn. New research from the California Housing Partnership, as described in this policy brief, challenges the ubiquity of this narrative.
Most notably, renter households in older, more affordable rental homes were far less likely to benefit from reduced rents than renters living in luxury apartments in high-cost, coastal counties, and in many cases saw average rents increase. Statewide, average rents in older, more affordable developments increased in all quarters during the pandemic’s first 18 months, while average rents in high-end luxury development decreased by 3% in Q2 2020, 5% in Q3 2020, 4% in Q4 2020, and 2% in Q1 2021.
Expanded Data Available in the Report
Appendix A: Average Multifamily Rents by County
- Average Annual Rent Change by Quarter: All Building Classes & Bedroom Sizes
- Average Quarterly Rent Change: All Building Classes and Bedroom Sizes
- Average Annual Rent Change by Quarter: High-End, Luxury Rental Housing
- Average Annual Rent Change by Quarter: Older, More Affordable Rental Housing
Appendix B: Comparison to the Great Recession
Appendix C: Map of Average Multifamily Rent Changes (Q3 2020)
The findings in this policy brief reiterate the importance of new affordable housing construction as well as the preservation of existing affordable properties. With nearly one in three renters spending more than half their income on rent, the pandemic has only exacerbated issues of housing affordability for low-income families, not improved them.