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Chapel Hill median rent increase by almost three percent reflective of overall housing market

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A house is pictured on East Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

The median rent in Chapel Hill increased by 2.9 percent during the month of March, according to a recent report from the online rental marketplace Apartment List.

The most recent rise reflects a trend of rising rental unit prices in the greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. The rent for a one-bedroom, multifamily home has increased by over 20 percent since June 2021, according to The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

According to Rob Warnock, a senior research associate at Apartment List, March’s rent increase is due in part to the fluctuating and seasonal nature of rent prices in college towns. He said college towns typically see much more volatile rent prices because of high demand and turnover as residents move in and out of the area more frequently every year. 

“When we look at Chapel Hill and plot rent growth over the state of North Carolina or the broader metro area, we tend to see broader ups and downs,” Warnock said. 

In warmer months, Warnock said people tend to relocate more frequently, which creates more demand for vacant units and higher prices.

“This is the time of year when rent prices do typically go up,” Warnock said. “So the rent increases are not counter to our expectations. We’re seeing this across the country — the beginning of the busy season for the rental market.” 

About 70 to 80 percent of all moves in the United States occur in the spring and summer.

Warnock added that March's dramatic increase is not necessarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though disruption in construction of new housing during the first two years of the pandemic as well as higher inflation caused rent increases in the Chapel Hill area, he said rent growth patterns are starting to return to pre-pandemic dynamics.

“The market is clearly more expensive than it was before, but price changes now have stabilized,” Warnock said. 

He said Apartment List is optimistic about the market’s “healthier” supply-demand balance. However, the about 25 percent overall rent increase in Chapel Hill since the beginning pandemic has continued to be an obstacle for tenants, Warnock said. 

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Amy Ryan said population growth in the Triangle area and a shortage of new affordable units were factors in rent increases.

“We’ve been under-building housing for a long time,” Ryan said. “We did a planning effort last year where we committed to trying to build 450-500 units a year going forward.” 

Ryan added that the Town’s affordable housing effort includes encouraging housing developers to accept vouchers for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program — a federal program that assists low-income families with housing — and rezoning land to allow for multifamily projects.

She said areas such as the Timberlyne Shopping Center and Carolina North could be developed for mixed-use housing. 

However, she said the state legislature does not allow municipalities to undertake measures such as rent control policies.

“We have a legislature that is favorable to folks who want to do business,” Ryan said. 

UNC senior and Carrboro resident Esme Kerr said she has been affected by recent rent increases in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.

Kerr said their room rent has largely increased over the past year, and they expect the trend to continue. 

“It’s $580 per room, then it increased (by) $84,"  Kerr said. "It’ll probably increase $100 this next year."

She added that she was looking to upgrade her current living situation, but she said the rent for the house she was considering was increasing by $200.

Still, she said Carrboro is overall more affordable than Chapel Hill.

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“I live in Carrboro because I know that I cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill,” she said. 

@phoebemartel1

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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