Federal officials recently extended the eviction moratorium another month — and they’ve warned it will be the last time.
Housing advocates fear a wave of evictions will follow the moratorium expiration, and they’re urging Utah renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to get help now before it’s too late.
But for Utah renters, the stress of the rental market isn’t new. For almost every year over the past decade, Utah’s rental prices have continued up, up, up.
As Utah renters continue to get squeezed, when will they hit breaking point?
Following a deep dive into Utah’s raging hot real estate market, the Deseret News also dug into what’s happening with the state’s rental market — and why rates are likely to continue their upward climb.
Read more about what the data shows, Utah renters’ struggles, and how housing advocates say they can get help here.
Here are five eye-opening takeaways from the Deseret News’ reporting:
The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed rental rates temporarily, but now they’re continuing up.
In the Salt Lake metro area, the median cost of rent went from $1,384 a month in March of 2020, when the pandemic first hit home here, to $1,451 a month one year later, a 4.8% increase, according to a new report by Stessa.com. The site ranked Salt Lake City metro area No. 64 out of 105 U.S. cities where rents changed the most since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increases are pricing out renters who might have otherwise been able to afford the same rental just a few years ago.
Almost every year over the past decade, Utah’s rental prices have shot up to the tune of 5% to 7% a year along the Wasatch Front, a startling reality that means the average Salt Lake County apartment that cost $793 in 2008 now costs about $1,145.
Prices have climbed at the highest rate in Utah County, home of the tech sector Silicon Slopes.
From 2000 to 2018, rent in Utah County rose a striking 83% — the highest increase of the Wasatch Front counties.
Salt Lake County’s rental rates rose 78%. Davis and Weber counties increased 64% and 59%, according to a June 2019 report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
In Utah County, the average apartment that cost $719 a month in 2008 now costs about $1,200.
Rents are outpacing wages and inflation. Low vacancy rates are driving the market.
From 2000 to 2018, average rent in Salt Lake County was more than twice the rate of inflation. For example: In 2000, the average rent for an apartment was $647. If rent increased at the same rate as inflation, the average rent for an apartment in Salt Lake County would be approximately $850 in 2018, nearly $300 cheaper than the actual 2018 average, according the policy institute’s June 2019 report.
Meanwhile, vacancy rates stay low. In Salt Lake County, vacancy rates have gone from nearly 9% in 2009 and are lingering around 4.5%, according to a 2020 multifamily market report by CBRE. Vacancy rates are similar in Utah and Weber counties, and even lower in Davis County, at about 3.5%.
The impact? Thousands of Utahns are at risk. And the housing gap is widening.
A stunning 1 in 5 Utah renters are considered “severely cost-burdened,” meaning they pay more than 50% of their income on rent, according to state and federal data.
Utah has an estimated 284,935 renters statewide. Of those, 115,875 — about 40% or 2 in 5 Utah renters — are considered “cost-burdened,” or pay more than 30% of their income on rent. About 52,890 Utahns — about 20% or 1 in 5 Utah renters — are considered “severely” cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 50% of their income on rent, according to Utah’s 2020 Affordable Housing Report.
A gap of affordable and available rental units for renters earning less than 50% of the area median income in Utah has widened over the past decade — from 41,052 in 2010 to 49,545 in 2018, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s November 2020 report.
Housing waitlists are staggering. But there’s still help out there.
In Salt Lake City alone, the waitlist for the most common assistance, Section 8 vouchers, is estimated at up to five years. Currently, there are more than 7,000 Salt Lake families on that list, according to the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City.
But while those waitlists are long and daunting, housing advocates want Utah renters to know there’s still help for them. Utah has about $180 million in government funding available for renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more about available resources for renters here.