Real Estate

Washington Now Has Sixth-Most Expensive Rents in US

Photograph via iStock.

Washington has fallen out of the five most expensive US cities for renters, according to figures collected by the real-estate website Zumper. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in DC fell to $2,190 in June, a 3.5 percent drop from May’s figure of $2,270.

The slight price drop gives Washington the sixth-highest rents in the country, with Oakland jumping over DC and Boston to become the fourth-priciest city for renters. San Francisco, New York, and San Jose, California maintained their top-three positions.

Median rents for two-bedroom units in DC also fell by 3.5 percent, from $3,150 to $3,040.

While the month-to-month changes may be encouraging for anyone planning to move during the summer, rents in DC have still increased over the past 12 months, according to Zumper. One-bedroom prices are up nearly 1 percent from June 2015, while two-bedroom rates have risen 1.3 percent.

As with any real-estate website’s price indexing, though, Zumper shouldn’t be taken as a tenant’s gospel. Another site, Adobo, listed the median rent for a one-bedroom in DC in June at $1,866.

But there is evidence that even if rents in Washington aren’t dropping, they are finally leveling off years of skyrocketing, thanks in large part to an abundance of new housing units. The District added 4,956 new residences in 2015, or about 7.5 new units per 1,000 residents, according to Greater Greater Washington. That rate of housing expansion was the same pace as Boston (where rents have remained flat over a 12-month period), and a bigger clip than other cities with astronomical rents like San Francisco and New York.

More broadly, rent inflation across the Washington metropolitan area also slowed to 2 percent last year, according a report last month by the Joint Center for Housing Research at Harvard University, a trend that can be credited to cooler job growth and growing inventory.

Still, tremendous hurdles remain in place for many renters. A report last year from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute found that at least 25 percent of DC renters are spending at least half their monthly incomes on housing, with renters at nearly all income levels feeling squeezed. The effect is obviously most severe among the lowest income brackets; the Harvard study found that in the DC metro area, 63 percent of renter households with reported income between $15,000 and $30,000 gave at least half of it to their landlords.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.