Since January 2020, rent in Chapel Hill has increased by 24 percent, exceeding the state average increase of 21 percent and the national average increase of 16 percent.
Rob Warnock, a senior research associate at Apartment List — a San Francisco-based organization that produces data on rent price changes — said rent prices rose across the board in 2021 and that Chapel Hill was no exception.
“In fact, North Carolina as a state has seen rent prices go up quicker this year than the national average," Warnock said. "This is pretty unheard of in the modern, post-Great Recession era.”
Currently, the average rent is $1,280 for one-bedroom apartment and $1,393 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Warnock said these rent increases impact the entire Triangle area, as Durham is experiencing the same increases. He also said low vacancy rates have the most direct influence on these rent prices.
“If a landlord is sitting on an increasingly scarce apartment, then naturally, they are going to seek the highest rent they can knowing that it is going to be a competitive market,” Warnock said. “So, that vacancy rate has really allowed rent prices to move in the way they have.”
Warnock said the pandemic has had the largest impact on the low vacancy rate.
“It is tied to a lot of factors having to do with the way the construction industry was affected by COVID, the way that the for-sale market is keeping people renting for longer and the migration patterns of people moving across the country who are bringing new demand in places that previously didn’t have it,” Warnock said.
He said these rising rent prices impact students living off-campus.
“Obviously Chapel Hill being a college town, you have the student community to think about who are typically early in their income-making careers,” Warnock said.
UNC senior Emily Palermo said housing affordability is important for students.
“It makes it harder, especially when you’re a full-time student and might not have time to have a full-time job and also do school,” Palermo said. “Rising rent prices make it really hard for students to find good housing not on campus.”
For students like UNC senior Kylie Brown, the pandemic made living off-campus more attractive.
“It’s a lot easier to do your online classes in your own room as opposed to having someone else in your room in a dorm,” Brown said.
The HOME Investment Partnerships Program offers funding for organizations to create more affordable housing, which can assist low-income Chapel Hill residents who are facing rising rent prices.
HOME is a federal block grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nonprofits and other organizations can apply to use HOME funds to combat issues in affordable housing.
Erika Brandt, the housing and community development manager for Orange County, said HOME funds can be used for a wide variety of affordable housing purposes.
“They can be used to fund construction, rehabilitation or acquisition of affordable housing either for rental or for homeownership,” she said.
The Orange County HOME Consortium estimates that about $470,000 in grant funding will be made available.
The deadline for nonprofits or local organizations that are doing affordable housing work to apply for a HOME grant is Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.
“High rents and unaffordable housing are a really big piece of why people experience homelessness," Brandt said. "And so by providing rental assistance to help people access housing and maintain housing, that is one way that we can fight back."
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