With October nearly half way through, we find ourselves focused on sprinkler winterization and finalizing our offseason to do list. We have multiple exciting new features to launch in coming updates, but this month, we will discuss persistent inflation, examine the rent control debate, and highlight a changing rental landscape.
August Jobs Report - In September, the U.S. labor market exceeded expectations by adding 336,000 jobs, well above the projected 170,000, and defying predictions of a hiring slowdown. The unemployment rate was slightly higher than expected at 3.8% compared to the forecasted 3.7%. The report triggered a negative market response, with stock futures dropping and Treasury yields rising. This surprising jobs surge raised concerns about the Federal Reserve's potential decision to maintain high interest rates, impacting investor sentiment. Despite this, the strong labor market remains a crucial factor in the Fed's decision-making process, particularly in the context of inflation and economic stability concerns.
Weekly Jobless Claims - During the week ending October 7th, 209,000 workers filed new unemployment claims, remaining unchanged from the previous week's revised level. Currently, 1.6 million workers are claiming unemployment benefits, a decrease from the peak of 1.86 million in mid-April. Despite an unexpected rise in the unemployment rate to 3.8% in August, job opportunities remain abundant. In September, U.S. employers added 336,000 new jobs, surpassing expectations. Job growth, initially perceived as slowing down, was stronger than anticipated, with revisions showing higher numbers, including an increase of 40,000 jobs in August and 79,000 jobs in July. Federal Reserve officials are monitoring the U.S. economy, particularly the robust labor market, before making decisions on future monetary policies. This marks the fourth consecutive week with jobless claims staying below 210,000.
Consumer Price Index - Due to strange timing with the release of CPI data and our publication dates, we actually had two reports released since our last newsletter. Ironically, each was nearly identical. In August, consumer prices rose 0.6% from the previous month, and are up 3.7% year over year. Core CPI climbed 0.3% monthly and is 4.3% higher than the prior year. In September, prices climbed 0.4% and remained up 3.7% year over year, with Core CPI up 0.3% on the month and 4.1% higher than last year. In other words, inflation is stubbornly high and well above the Fed’s target of 2% further increasing the likelihood of additional rate increases.
Fed Meeting - The Federal Reserve had its meeting last September 19-20 and announced that it would keep interest rates unchanged and hinted at expecting one more rate hike by year-end, with fewer cuts projected for the following year. This decision marked the end of a cycle that had seen a dozen rate hikes since March 2022, maintaining rates at a range between 5.25%-5.5%, the highest in 22 years. The Fed emphasized a more restrictive policy approach, causing market fluctuations. Fed Chair Jerome Powell mentioned the need for more evidence of progress against inflation. Economic growth expectations were raised, with GDP predicted to increase by 2.1% this year. Projections also indicated lower inflation rates and unemployment levels. The Fed continues to reduce its bond holdings. The committee's shift to a balanced view aims to manage inflation without causing a recession, but the future remains uncertain.
Debating Rent Control: A Controversial Solution to the Housing Affordability Crisis
The housing affordability crisis has taken center stage in the United States, prompting a heated debate over the role of rent control as a potential solution. Advocates argue that rent control can provide immediate relief to renters, mitigate skyrocketing rents, and prevent displacement. In contrast, opponents raise concerns about its long-term consequences on housing supply, quality, and equity.
To begin, the housing crisis is not limited to high-cost coastal cities; it extends across the entire nation, affecting both urban and rural areas. To tackle the issue, various states and cities have either enacted or considered rent control measures, often aiming to cap annual rent increases. At the federal level, lawmakers are feeling the pressure and have even proposed national rent control measures. The effectiveness of these policies remains a contentious topic with diverse research findings, and that only serves to contribute to the ongoing debate. Some studies suggest that rent control can indeed limit displacement, providing stability to renters in an increasingly volatile market. However, other research argues that it may not effectively target low-income households and could discourage housing construction. Critics warn that rent control can lead to a shortage of affordable homes over time, as landlords might exit the rental market or neglect maintenance, heightening housing issues.
One of the main critiques of rent control centers on its perceived inequity. Rent control often offers the same benefits to higher-income individuals as it does to lower-income families who need it most. Furthermore, rent control can incentivize renters, regardless of their income or wealth, to stay in their apartments for longer durations than they otherwise would, even when their housing needs change. This can create fierce competition for a limited number of rent-controlled units. Studies have shown that rent control tends to benefit more upper-income and white renters than those with moderate incomes and people of color. Opponents of rent control advocate for a multifaceted approach to address the housing crisis. They stress the importance of increasing the housing supply and addressing the root causes of affordability challenges. This involves streamlining regulations to encourage housing construction, offering financial incentives for affordable housing development, and providing targeted rental assistance programs for those in need. By fostering a healthier housing market, critics argue, policymakers can address the housing affordability crisis more comprehensively and effectively.
In conclusion, the debate surrounding the role of rent control in addressing the housing affordability crisis is multifaceted and complex. While rent control may offer some immediate respite to renters in distress, its long-term consequences and potential drawbacks are significant points of disagreement. Policymakers face the challenge of finding a balanced approach that combines short-term relief measures with long-term solutions aimed at fostering a healthier and more equitable housing market for all. As always, it's important that we weigh both sides of an issue before making policy decisions that solve one problem only to create another.
Utah Real Estate Market
In September, the Utah real estate market displayed a mixed performance. The median sold price increased by 0.83% compared to the previous month, indicating short-term resilience, but fell by 0.15% year over year, suggesting a subdued long-term trend. Sold counts witnessed a significant decline, plummeting by 22.12% from the previous month and 28.57% lower than the same period last year. Despite a 6.65% increase in the average number of listings compared to the prior month, there was a notable 12.82% decrease in listings compared to last year. This data reflects a challenging market influenced by fluctuating prices, reduced transaction activity, and ongoing supply constraints, highlighting the challenges posed by our current high interest rate environment.
Median Sold Price*
Average # of Listings*
Monthly Change: Up 0.83%
Monthly Change: Down 22.12%
Year Over Year: Down 28.57%
Monthly Change: Up 6.65%
Year Over Year: Down 12.82%
* all graphs/data are for single-family homes in Salt Lake, Utah, and Davis Counties.
The Utah rental market presents a mixed picture with diverse rent growth trends across key cities. In the past month, some cities like Salt Lake City and Sandy witnessed slight rent increases, while others such as Murray and North Salt Lake experienced declines. However, on a yearly basis, all cities analyzed displayed negative rent growth, indicating an overall downward trend in the rental market. Notably, Murray experiences the fastest annual rent growth in the metro region, while Salt Lake City records the slowest, indicating varying rental market dynamics within the submarkets. Staying updated on these trends will help us make better pricing decisions to limit vacancy in a challenging market.
Month Over Month
Year Over Year
North Salt Lake
Salt Lake City
*Rental data provided by apartment list.
HUD Announces Major Updates - HUD's recent updates encompass multiple key initiatives. Firstly, the announcement of the 2024 Fair Market Rents (FMRs) has drawn attention, revealing an average national increase of 12%, surpassing the previous year's figures. These updates are accompanied by adjustments to the FMR calculation methodology, with revisions to definitions and the incorporation of private sector data sources aimed at enhancing accuracy. Secondly, HUD has extended the compliance period for specific housing programs to adhere to the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE), granting jurisdictions, participants, and grantees until October 1, 2024, to implement these standards. While compliance isn't obligatory until 2024, program participants have the flexibility to adopt these standards sooner should they choose to do so. Lastly, HUD has embarked on an intriguing Direct Rental Assistance pilot program, inspired by pandemic-era direct payments to households. Under this initiative, households on voucher waitlists can opt for either traditional vouchers funded by HUD or equivalent-value monthly payments funded by philanthropy. This pilot program will assess outcomes across various geographic areas, vacancy rates, and regulatory environments. Notably, this approach has the potential to streamline housing assistance, reducing administrative costs and improper payments, thereby benefiting low-income households. These HUD updates represent significant developments in the realm of housing assistance, aimed at improving program accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency.
Rental Housing Insurance Costs Skyrocket - Apartment owners are grappling with a noticeable surge in insurance expenses, particularly in regions susceptible to extreme weather events like earthquakes, fires, floods, and hurricanes. This trend is witnessed nationwide, with some insurers even exiting these areas, while others are pushing the rental housing industry to keep up with rising premiums. According to a recent report by Marcus & Millichap, insurance costs per unit have surged by 33% year-over-year as of June 2023. Consequently, approximately 8% of an apartment unit's operating expenses are now allocated to insurance, nearly double the proportion observed just five years ago. The report also highlights that property taxes, payroll, and other apartment owner expenses have risen by 9%, while rents have only increased by 4%. This disparity, coupled with expectations of further cost escalations and moderated rent growth, is poised to significantly influence development proposals, property valuations, and investor acquisition criteria moving forward. The escalating insurance costs, along with rising material and labor expenses, are also impacting commercial development. Simultaneously, the multifamily sector is expected to add 400,000 units in 2023, leading to the country's highest vacancy rate in 12 years.