Tuesday the Census Bureau released its quarterly report on homeownership. While the bulk of the commentary focused on the homeownership rate, and price of housing, I would like to focus on apartment rentals. The share of apartment building compared to single family home construction has jumped since the last recession, partly due to the swelling demographic of Millennial entering the market, and partly due to nearly-stagnant wages.
Rental vacancies were at a new record low in the 2nd quarter of 2015. This is the flip side of the 20-year low in homeownership rates
Unsurprisingly, in nominal terms, the median asking rent has been rising to new records in the last several years But that doesn't tell us what has been going on in real terms. To do that, we should adjust for inflation, or alternatively by wages. That is what I have done in the chart below. It shows nominal asking rents vs. median weekly wages as compiled by the BLS. It shows that real rents declined in the 1990s as wages increased, soared in the 2000 - 2009 period, and had remained below that peak ever since -- until the first quarter of this year this year, for the first time in history, the median asking rent equaled the entire weekly earnings of the median worker. Even worse, the median wage of all workers does not quite accurately capture the median wage of renters, since they tend to be from lower income groups. And as the graph below compiled by the Employment Law Project from last August shows, the median real wage of the 4th and 5th quintile as of then had declined more than the median real wage of workers overall compared with their 2009 peak
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