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Arlington’s COVID- and shutdown-caused drop in apartment rents appears to be hitting bottom for now, according to new data from Apartment List, but the county’s rental market is still significantly more affordable than before the pandemic.

For the year ending in January, rents in Arlington were down 14 percent from a year before, standing at $1,673 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,025 for a two-bedroom unit.

But the rate of decline, in Arlington and the other nine urban communities that saw the highest dropoff since COVID’s arrival in March, appears to be flattening. In Arlington, the drop from December to January was just 0.5 percent, lower than in preceding months.

Even in San Francisco, where the average rent is down a whopping 27 percent from January 2020, the decline seems to have hit bottom, at least for now.

Also among the top 10 in terms of percentage declines in median rent for the year ending in January were New York City (down 21 percent), Seattle (20 percent), Boston (19 percent), Oakland (15 percent), the District of Columbia (14 percent), Arlington (14 percent), San Jose (13 percent), Chicago (13 percent) and Jersey City (12 percent).

(The full data can be found at www.apartmentlist.com/research/national-rent-data.)

Arlington’s 14-percent year-over-year dropoff in January compares to a 2.4-percent year-over-year increase recorded in the county in January 2020, when the pandemic was seen by most as a distant threat unlikely to significantly impact the U.S.

Like its neighbor, the District of Columbia, Arlington’s rental market seems to have taken a hit because it was pricey to begin with. Some renters either couldn’t make their payments and moved out, or relocated to areas of the country with lower rents or fewer government-imposed restrictions.

That appears to have been the case in many parts of the country.

“Price seems to be a key determinant of whether cities are experiencing falling or rising rents during the pandemic,” the Apartment List analysts noted. “The cities that had the highest rents in March  have seen the steepest rent drops since then.”

Some less-expensive corridors have seen robust rental-housing markets over the past year, with Boise posting an increase of 12 percent in its average rental price and Fresno up 11 percent leading the pack.

“Although we continue to see significant regional variation, the markets most impacted by the pandemic are beginning to enter calmer waters,” analysts said. “Take the pricey coastal metros where rents have been plummeting – this month’s data implies that we may have reached the bottom. At the other end of the spectrum, many of the mid-sized markets, where we have seen rents grow rapidly through the pandemic, only show modest increases.”

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