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Assessing The Effects of COVID-19 In Boston’s Apartment Rental Market

Posted 11-01-2021 at 11:55 AM by zachparker7




Now that the rental market in Boston has almost recovered to its pre-pandemic levels, we can take a close look at the data and see what has changed. The vacancy rate and availability rate are within 20% of where they were in October 2019, which was to be expected when remote learning was cancelled and students returned to Boston in Fall 2021. Still, there will undoubtedly be long term affects on the local housing market caused by the pandemic, perhaps some that have yet to show up. For now, we’ll dive into the data to see what has changed since 2019 and perhaps take some guesses at what that will mean for the future of Boston’s rental market.

Boston Rent Prices Down Slightly

Average rent prices for apartments in Boston are down by a very small margin compared to October 2019. It stands at -0.94% for the entire Metro, but varies significantly by neighborhood. The rent drops were much more substantial in some of Boston’s more expensive rental markets, while they actual went up by similar margins in some of Boston’s outer areas.

Neighborhoods Where Rent Dropped The Most in Boston
  • Charlestown: -12.11%
  • Newton: -8.77%
  • Downtown: -7.71%
  • Back Bay: -7.60%
  • Fenway: -7.52%

Neighborhoods Where Rent Increased The Most in Boston

Quincy: +11.75%
Roslindale: +9.74%
Arlington: +6.88%
Dorchester +6.15%
Roxbury: +5.85%

So the data shows that some of Boston’s priciest rental markets were hit hardest as a result of COVID. Many of these outer neighborhoods maintained some of the lowest vacancy rates in Boston throughout most of the pandemic until the student population returned this year. As a result of the rent drops in some of the downtown areas, we’re seeing record low apartment inventory there now that the students have returned.

Vacancy Rate Way Down In Boston’s Core Neighborhoods

Renting an apartment in one of Boston’s core neighborhoods was never an easy task, but it may have gotten even harder. South End (-84.47%), Symphony (-80.88%), Fenway, (-70.93%) South Boston (-63.10%), and Back Bay (-62.39%) have seen the largest drop in vacant inventory in all of Greater Boston compared to October 2019, before the pandemic.

This has made a tough renter’s market even more sparse. Perhaps the rent drops enticed more students to choose renting a neighborhood closer to Downtown this year. It’s doubtful that this trend will continue, as such a tight inventory will eventually put upward pressure on prices, bringing them closer to their pre-pandmic levels.

Neighborhoods Where Vacancies Have Increased The Most

Lower Allston: +365.52%
Jamaica Plain: +166.67%
Beacon Hill: +165.52%
Charlestown: +144.30%
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