In a welcome if slight changes after years of soaring prices, rents this year have declined across much of the Bay Area and beyond.
The median asking prices for rent fell 4% from $2,963 to $2,844 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward region this May compared to last May, while prices rose 1% from $3,314 to $3,347 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region, according to a new report from the real estate website Realtor.com.
For Tachina Garrett, who grew up in San Francisco and now lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Antioch with her son, rent increases have been the norm. She currently pays $2,400 monthly.
“I have been facing astronomical rent increases for the last two years,” she said. “I’m just floored by them saying the rents are going down. I’m living it, and they aren’t going down! I’m just one rent increase away from an eviction.”
Nationally, median rents were 0.5% lower compared to a year ago, the report showed — marking the first year-over-year decline for units, from studios to two bedrooms — in the US rental market since the company began tracking data before the pandemic in 2019. On a $2,000 apartment, that would be a $10 monthly reduction.
“This is yet another sign that rental-driven inflation is likely behind us, even though we may not see this trend in official measures until next year,” Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist, said in a statement. “Although still modest, a decline in rents combined with cooling inflation and a still-strong job market is definitely welcome news for households.”
Across the county, many renters aren’t seeing much relief. The median asking price for rent in the country’s 50 largest metros was $1,739 in May. That’s $38 lower than the peak median rent of July 2022, but still $344 higher than in May 2019.
And the Bay Area still remains one of the priciest markets in the country. The San Jose region registered the highest median rent in May out of all 50 metros the report tracked. According to a new national rent report for June from rental platform Zumper, San Jose is the sixth most expensive city in the country for a one-bedroom unit.
“I expect that we will see rents decline in the San Jose area, too, within a few months,” said Jiayi Xu, an economist at Realtor.com who worked on the company’s report. “At the beginning of the pandemic, this area experienced the largest rent decline. It took nearly two years for rents to rebound and then they rebounded very significantly. The rates still need more time to decline from that, but the growth is definitely slowing down.”
Shanti Singh, communications and legislative director at San Francisco-based renter advocacy organization Tenants Together, said the rent decline was too negligible to help low-income renters in the Bay Area.
“This is a really modest decrease in rent given the volume of rent increase we’ve seen over the last few years, and I don’t think it’s going to be super noticeable for the tenants in the Bay Area,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a fundamental market shift, and we’re still going to have the same affordability crisis.”
Several Bay Area cities already have enacted rent control laws that aim to ensure affordability in the rental market. Most recently, in August last year, Antioch’s City Council approved rent stabilization protections. Additionally, in 2020, eviction moratoriums were put in place across the region to prevent displacement during the pandemic. While these protections have ended in most places, they remain in place in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, although they are set to expire in July and August.
On Wednesday, the California Legislative Renters’ Caucus, which was formed last year to represent the interests of California’s 17 million renters, announced its official bill priorities. The caucus, which consists of only five non-home-owning renters in the state Legislature, said its legislative priorities include capping security deposits at one month’s rent, focusing on social housing and building more affordable housing.
Jacob Saffarian, a 23-year-old who works in Berkeley and lives in a one-bedroom unit with his partner for $1,980 a month, said he’s seen no evidence of a dipping market.
“It’s very overwhelming for young people like myself,” he said. “I’m super grateful that I received a scholarship for college, so I’m not deeply in debt. But I can’t imagine if you don’t have two parents right now or didn’t inherit a place or aren’t going straight into a very serious profession how you’re supposed to afford a place to live right now.”