According to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s latest Rent Payment Tracker, 79.2% of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by Feb. 6, based on a survey of 11.6 million professionally managed apartment units.
This marks a 216,479-household, or 1.9 percentage point, decrease from the share of renters who paid through Feb. 6, 2020. Last month, 76.6% of households had made a full or partial rent payment by Jan. 6. Final January 2021 collections came in at 93.2%—lower than in 2020, but “relatively unchanged” month to month.
The COVID-19 stimulus package passed in December includes a program by which states can apply for at least $200 million in rental assistance, with an opportunity for more funding based on need. While the deadline for states to apply to this funding has passed, both renters and property owners can apply for a share of funds, either to cover their own rent or to cover losses from unpaid rent.
“As we approach almost a full year of navigating the pandemic and the resulting financial distress, we remain encouraged by the COVID relief package passed at the end of 2020 that included critical support for apartment residents and the nation’s rental housing industry such as $25 billion in rental assistance, extended unemployment benefits, and direct payments,” says Doug Bibby, NMHC president.
The impact of revenue losses on building services is among the top concerns for Elizabeth Francisco, president of ResMan, and Ricardo Rivas, CEO of Allied Orion. Francisco points out that these revenue losses could translate into billions in payroll cuts for on-site staff, and anywhere from $2.5 billion to $3 billion in deferred maintenance.
“As lawmakers consider further relief legislation, additional support for renters is clearly needed,” Bibby says. “Estimates of 2020 lost rent alone range from $27 billion to nearly $60 billion, despite the impact of previous federal COVID relief efforts. In the coming days and weeks, we urge members of Congress to pass legislation that directly meets renters’ basic financial hardships, protects the nation’s rental housing industry, and efficiently provides funds to those who need it most.”
In this month’s NMHC Rent Payment Tracker Webinar, while rent prices are falling and concessions are rising, MRI industry principal Brian Zrimsek says this is a strategy that is working to bolster occupancy rates, and thus revenue. One-bedroom apartments, which fell in popularity over the summer, are now among the most popular unit choices; at this point, Zrimsek says the people signing new leases are stable in their situations. “The industry reacts in these situations with price and concessions to drive occupancy.”
At the same time, Yardi Matrix vice president Jeff Adler points out a split between urban and suburban rent growth, even in the same metro areas. “There is a bottom forming, but at the same time market rents in the Sun Belt cities are moving up,” he says, noting Chicago, Minneapolis, and Houston among the markets where this split is clearest.
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