CHICAGO — This summer, Marianna Harrison, 41, saw something unexpected on her lease renewal form.
Rather than the annual hike in rent she’d received over the past 12 years for her one-bedroom apartment in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, her rent for 2021 went down by $50.
“That doesn’t seem like a lot, but honestly, to me, that is a lot,” Harrison said. “It adds up.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic pummeled the film industry, Harrison lost work as a script supervisor. The decrease in rent will save her $600 in 2021, bringing her previous monthly rent of $1,200 to $1,150.
And she’s not alone; in Chicago, rents dropped by almost 12% in December compared to December 2019, according to a new report from Apartment List, a website for apartment rentals. Average rent was $1,355 in Chicago a year ago; it fell to $1,193 in December.
Zillow data, too, marked the starkest plunge in year-over-year rental prices in the Chicago metropolitan area since it began analyzing national rents in 2014, with a decline starting in July and continuing through the latter half of the year.
Zillow reported a 2.2% decline in Chicago-area rents in November compared to a year earlier. When including the suburbs, Apartment List’s figures — which the service claims is more closely aligned to U.S. Census Bureau data — showed a similar decline of 6%, suggesting the suburban markets have not been as hard hit as the city.
Chicago was among the most severely impacted cities when it came to falling rents, said Rob Warnock, who co-authored the Apartment List study. Due to the pandemic, more expensive cities with competitive job markets saw rent decline — many for the first time in a decade.
“It’s really a lot of these denser, really strong job centers across the country — Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston — where we saw the rent prices really collapse the most dramatically in 2020,” he said.
Chicago was ninth in the nation for the steepest drops in rental prices since the pandemic began in March. Nationally, rent fell by 1.5% at the end of 2020 compared to 2019 after at least three years of increases, according to the Apartment List report.