Housing costs vary from state to state, and it seems as though rent prices all across the United States are increasing. That's because, in most states, it is. The U.S. rental market has seen an increase in the demand for apartment house rentals. Renting is often seen as an affordable alternative to buying a home, with less stress and commitment; however, rent prices in major cities and metro areas around the U.S. are becoming increasingly expensive. That is until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 2020 was $1,098 a month.
The United States is facing an affordable housing crisis. Access to secure, high-quality housing at an affordable price has become increasingly difficult and seemingly impossible in some areas. Rent costs are rising faster than wages across the U.S., putting pressure on people to make rent each month, let alone their other bills and obligations. There are three main reasons why rent is so high now: the Great Recession threw off the rental market, the construction of housing is too expensive, and lawmakers have neglected programs that could solve the problem.
From 2019 to 2020, the average rent increased in 39 states and decreased in 12 states, including the District of Columbia. Vermont saw the largest rent increase of 3.07%, and D.C. saw the largest rent decrease of 1.45. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment decreased in the following states:
- Rhode Island
Rent and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted rental markets across the United States.
According to Apartment List, many cities saw increased rent declines in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Large cities with the highest rent prices, such as San Francisco, saw the largest rent drops since March 2020. San Francisco's rent prices fell an average of 3.4% a month from April to December 2020. This means they are down 27% year-over-year. Other large cities are experiencing the same effect of the pandemic, including New York City (-21%), Seattle (-20%), and Boston (-19%).
Simultaneously, several mid-sized markets saw significant increases in rent prices, as work-from-home and the demand for home office space increased rapidly during the pandemic. Cities like Boise (+12%), Fresno (+11%), and Gilbert (+8%) saw their rent prices increase between April and December 2020, but the growth appears to be flattening out.
As the most expensive cities saw a decline in rent prices and more affordable cities saw an increase in rent prices, there has been a small degree of convergence among the cities' average rent prices. Before the pandemic, a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco has a median cost $3,146, 3.4 times a 2-bedroom in Boise at a median of $929. As of January 2021, the San Francisco apartment is $2,294, 2.2 times that of the Boise 2-bedroom, which is now $1,024.
Rent by State
Rent prices vary greatly by state and by city. Some of the most expensive cities to rent in the United States are New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Boston. These are the most expensive cities per square foot, so higher rent prices do not equate to more space.
The District of Columbia has the highest average rent in the United States of $2,324 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. Massachusetts follows with $1,995 a month and California with $1,777 a month. Hawaii and New Jersey finish the top five rents with $1,687 and $1,595.
Rent is typically higher in states with higher incomes. For example, all five states with the highest average rent prices are among the ten highest-earning states. D.C.'s median household income is about $85,203 a year, Massachusetts's is $81,215, California's is $75,235, Hawaii's is $81,275, and New Jersey's is $82,545.
Twenty-one states have average rent prices below $1,000 a month. West Virginia has the lowest average rent in the United States of $628 a month, followed by Montana with $678 and Oklahoma with $699. These are the only three states with rents below $700 a month. Wyoming and Kansas follow with $706 and $713.
The states with the lowest rent prices have the lowest overall costs of living in the United States in general; however, median household incomes also tend to be lower. For example, the median household income is $46,711 in West Virginia, the second-lowest median household income in the U.S.