San Antonio Rent Prices Low, But Demand Outpacing Supply

Dec 14, 2017

While the price of housing rentals continue to , San Antonio renters have something to be thankful for: San Antonio has the fourth lowest prices for rentals of the largest 25 metro areas, according to a new report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Despite these lower rents, 45 percent of the city’s renters are cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Nearly a quarter spend half their income on housing.

According to the study’s author, Jonathan Spader, San Antonio’s metro area has added 81,000 units, but Spader said essentially all of those additions have been for middle- and upper-income renters. And unlike other cities, San Antonio has seen an increase in low-income renters.

“Especially for those making less than $25,000 a year, that’s a group the private sector has trouble serving,” Spader said.

David Nisivoccia with the San Antonio Housing Authority agreed with the report’s findings. The public housing organization, along with a few “good-hearted” developers, are the only ones addressing the need — and demand is high, he said.

“Housing costs more to build, but people (In San Antonio) aren’t seeing significantly increased wages,” Nisivoccia said.

SAHA houses around 60,000 people through its units and vouchers, and Nisivoccia said the organization does whatever it can to assure its residents aren’t spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Low-income renters across the country face increasingly tight marketplaces as builders continue to focus on higher income earners. Between 2006 and 2016, units renting at $1,500 a month and above grew by nearly 4 million units, whereas units renting at less than $650 a month has declined by nearly a half million.

Credit Courtesy Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies

“What we’ve seen is a lot of supply at the high end,” said Chris Herbert, the managing partner of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “We haven’t seen very much supply in the middle of the market. And even though we are seeing the market slow down, it’s slowing down in a way that doesn’t seem to have solved the fundamental affordability problem.”

The landscape of rentals in the country has been reshaped, said Herbert. In 2001, data showed more than 40 percent of new rentals were coming online for middle income earners and 15 percent for higher income earners. Now, he said, the opposite is true.

The Great Recession kicked off a national surge in the rental market growth as the housing market faltered, wages stagnated and unemployment rose. A decade later, with a housing market stabilized, growing incomes and full employment, the landscape could be poised to change again, Spader said. An early sign of this is, according to the report, a 9 percent drop in new multifamily unit construction.

Home ownership remains at one of its lowest levels in 50 years, at 63.9 percent, but it has stabilized.

In San Antonio, the prices of single-family homes have continued to rise in each of the past two years, according to the San Antonio Board of Realtors. The average new home in San Antonio goes for $211,000.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or follow him on Twitter @paulflahive