For Renters, It’s Like the Early Days of the Pandemic

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Man in apartment, texting, with laptop on work surface, serious expression on face, coffee cup in hand

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The economy has improved by many measures since the start of the pandemic, but for renters, it’s starting to look like those early months all over again.

Among the renting population, the share that missed or delayed their rent payment in October (or only paid part of it,) rose to 10.9%—the highest for any month since April 2020, according to updated research released Tuesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America. As the chart below shows, the percentage has been growing for months, and is now nearly triple as large as the share of homeowners—3.8%—who said they had missed their mortgage payments.

The increase in struggling renters is likely at least in part because of the end of pandemic-triggered government aid like extra unemployment insurance as well as soaring inflation, the institute said in a statement this week. Renters have been more vulnerable than homeowners, perhaps because the share of renters who received unemployment benefits fell from 6% in the summer to less than 1% in October, according to Gary V. Engelhardt, a professor of economics at Syracuse University who co-authored the research. 

“The economy and labor market continued to improve during the fall months, but the sunset of government support programs, inflationary pressures, and rising COVID-19 cases were all likely factors in the upticks in missed housing payments in September and October,” Engelhardt said in an accompanying statement. 

The study, which is based on data from multiple polls of the same 8,000 households, shows that renters are having an especially hard time right now. Effective asking rents for new leases rose to a national average of $1,631 in November, according to RealPage, a real estate data company. That was 0.4% more than in October (even though rents usually fall this time of year,) and a record 13.9% more than November of 2020, Realpage said. 

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