Central Pa. rents rise slightly but overall trend down from pandemic highs

Paula Wolf//December 28, 2022

Central Pa. rents rise slightly but overall trend down from pandemic highs

Paula Wolf//December 28, 2022

Central Pennsylvania rents inched up slightly in November but are still less than they were a year ago, according to the newest report from Apartment List.

This drop from pandemic highs follows a national trend.

In the three-county Harrisburg metro area of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, median rents rose 0.4% from October to November while falling 0.9% over the previous 12 months.

The latest median rents in the region were $1,040 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,337 for a two-bedroom unit, the report said.

Rob Warnock, a senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email, “Like most other parts of the country, central Pennsylvania has experienced a swift slowdown in rent growth during 2022. Prices today are slightly lower than they were one year ago, following dramatic increases the year before that.

“While it is a welcomed relief, rents are still up more than 30% since the start of the pandemic (March 2020), so the current market slowdown is not undoing much of the affordability concerns that have developed over the past couple years. The slowdown has been attributed to broader economic worries and lower consumer confidence, as people have been putting off big, expensive decisions like moving, buying a house or starting a family.”

Apartment List’s national rent index fell by 1% in November, the third straight monthly drop and the largest single monthly dip in the history of the index, which dates from 2017.

As Warnock noted, reasons for the cool down appear to be tied to economic factors, rather than just the typical seasonal trend.

Over the course of the year, rent growth continues to outpace pre-pandemic levels, but by smaller and smaller margins, the report said. Through November of 2022, rents are up 4.7%, “which is much closer to the … rates we saw in 2018 and 2019 than it is to the astronomical 18% growth that we saw at this point last year.”

Accompanying the slowdown in rent growth is a rise in unoccupied units. Nationally, the Apartment List vacancy index is 5.7% through November, after gradually climbing from a low of 4.1% last fall.

“Today’s vacancy rate still remains below the pre-pandemic norm but could get back to that benchmark as early as next spring, if the current rate of easing continues,” according to the report.

From April through August, vacancy ticked up 0.2 percentage points, from 5.1% to 5.3%. But from August through November, the index rose 0.6 percentage points, reaching the current 5.7%.

“After a prolonged period of skyrocketing rent growth, and with non-housing-related costs also getting more expensive as a result of broad-based inflation, it seems that some Americans are moving back in with family or roommates, or delaying striking out on their own,” Apartment List explained.

Meanwhile, new apartment construction is getting back on track after encountering delays during the pandemic. “This combination of slowing household formation and rising inventory,” the report noted, “is driving the recent shifts that we are seeing in both our rent growth and vacancy indexes.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer