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Boston-area apartment rents remain high

Whatever’s going on with the region’s sales market, it’s not impacting the rental scene—Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, et al, see annual jumps in leasing costs

The exteriors of a row of close-together apartment buildings. Shutterstock

Early 2020 continues to look like early 2019 in the Boston-area rental market. Even as the sales market pivots—ever so slowly—in favor of buyers, the environment for tenants continues to be unforgivingly pricey (and ditching broker fees ain’t going to change that).

A new report from Zumper tracking median one- and two-bedroom apartment rents in 20 cities and towns in the region underscores this trend. The report—which tracks movement in rents listed on Zumper—showed year-over-year increases in the rents in most cities as of early February, including Boston proper.

In other words, just as in early February 2019, rents were in general markedly similar if not more expensive than the same time the year before.

Cambridge led the regional pack this February, with the median one-bedroom rent up 6 percent, to $2,650 a month, and the median two-bedroom rent up 10.8 percent, to $3,270. In Boston, the median two-bedroom rent was up 5.8 percent annually, to $2,900, though the median one-bedroom was down 3.5 percent, to $2,500. See the chart from Zumper below for an in-depth breakdown.

There are various reasons for the region’s stubbornly high rents, including an abundance of more affluent tenants—the Boston area has an unusually high share of renter households pulling in at least $100,000 a year, for instance—and the fact that many towns and cities have zoning regulations that discourage the sort of multi-family housing the region desperately needs.

There’s also the region’s sales market, which itself remains relatively expensive and therefore keeps that many more tenants who would otherwise buy in the apartment market.