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Boston rents bounce as hundreds of affordable-housing units sit empty

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Vacancies sometimes last for months; meanwhile, Boston remains one of the most expensive U.S. cities for renting

An aerial shot of apartment buildings in Boston. jiawangkun/Shutterstock

Boston remains one of the most expensive cities in the United States for renting an apartment, according to a new report for July from real estate listings site Zumper.

Meanwhile, the city is taking months sometimes to fill hundreds of affordable-housing units wherein tenants might rent decent apartments for hundreds of dollars off market rates.

That is according to City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, who told the Globe’s Tim Logan last week that as many as 839 apartments for low- and middle-income residents may be vacant. Developers back up the assessment.

Both Essaibi-George and developers said that the city’s sometimes labyrinth process for selecting tenants for the coveted units is holding up occupancy. These holdups are due to staffing shortages at the requisite municipal agencies, they said.

The city for its part said that most of the 839 apartments cited were still under construction. It did agree, though, that more staff is needed to ensure timelier leasing.

Any relief from the Boston rental market can’t come soon enough for prospective tenants. According to Zumper, the median one-bedroom rent at the start of July was $2,320, up 5.5 percent from July 2017. The median two-bedroom was $2,750, up 4.6 percent annually. See the chart below to see how that compares with other major U.S. cities.