Oklahoma City has one of the lowest apartment vacancy rates in the country, making it even more difficult for people with low to moderate incomes to find quality affordable housing.
(Photo by Justin Prine via Unsplash)

OKLAHOMA CITY – A shortage of available apartments in Oklahoma City, coupled with rising rents, is compounding the problem for people looking for affordable housing.

“People of low and moderate income have very limited housing choices,” said Kim Cooper-Hart, senior city planner for Oklahoma City.

City staff just completed a housing affordability study that shows about 40 percent of Oklahoma City renters are eligible for some kind of rent assistance, Cooper-Hart said. Many spend 40-50% of their income on housing, she said.

The median rental price in the United States hit its highest level in two years in May, rising 5.5% year-over-year, according to a report released Wednesday by Realtor.com. The median monthly rent in Oklahoma City was $ 834, an increase of 5.6%.

Rising rents are likely the result of several factors, the report notes. As house prices hit record highs, potential buyers may have decided to keep renting. And increasing immunization rates can build confidence in travel safety, which in turn increases demand and prices.

Americans are moving, and it’s changing rent prices nationwide, according to new study by QuoteWizard.

“Our team of analysts found that this reshuffle dramatically altered the number of available apartments in almost every state, creating a significant supply and demand problem that reversed long-standing rental price trends,” indicates the report.

Since 2019, the vacancy rate has fallen 60% in less populous states and increased 175% in more populous ones. In addition, all but six of the 29 states that experienced a drop in their vacancy rates saw their rents increase, according to the study.

Oklahoma saw a 32.5% drop in available apartments from 2019 to 2021, the 10th largest drop, while rents rose more than 4%.

Rent changes have been even more dramatic in many cities, with data showing people moving from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones.

The number of available apartments has decreased by 50-73% in 10 mid-sized cities, while large cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston have increased the number of rental units available by 50-400%.

Oklahoma City recorded the 10th largest drop in vacant homes, falling more than 51% from 2019 to 2021, while rents rose 5%. The study listed the city’s current vacancy rate at 5.7%.

Low wages have not kept up with housing costs, further reducing the stock of housing available to low-income renters, Cooper-Hart said. At the same time, developers don’t build additional affordable units because it’s expensive.

“From 2000 to 2019, prices increased faster than income. When you get that imbalance, you get an affordability gap, ”she said.

In the high end of the market, low inventory means people who cannot find vacant rental properties move into lower cost properties that would otherwise be available, she said.

“A very tight rental market hinders mobility,” Cooper-Hart said, including for people willing to move from roaming to rental property.

Cooper-Hart said city staff will use the new study to identify how and where residents are suffering and what partnerships are needed to develop policies and programs to address the problem in the long term.

The goal is for everyone to have “good, safe and affordable housing,” she said. “This is a very important order.”


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