Orlando-area rents rising faster than any other big city

Average rents in Central Florida grew to $1,472 in November, a 4.4 percent increase over the last year. (David Zalubowski / AP)

Home and apartment rents in Metro Orlando are rising faster than any other major city in the country, according to a report released Thursday by Zillow.

Average rents in Central Florida grew to $1,472 in November, a 4.4 percent increase over the last year.

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Orlando outpaced average rent increase across the United States, which was only 0.5 percent. Orlando-area renters also now pay more than the U.S. average for renting a home or apartment, which is $1,449, according to Zillow.

“Nationwide it’s fairly flat year over year in the last few months,” said Jeff Tucker, an economist with Zillow. “So Orlando is unique.”

The Zillow report verifies other research that says that the availability of rentals homes and apartments is decreasing and the costs are rising for renters in Orlando.

The report from Zillow comes on the heels of another report earlier this week from the Orlando Regional Realtor Association that showed home sales are actually slowing in Central Florida. Zillow’s home value index, which tracks estimated prices on all homes and not just sales, said home prices are up 9.7 percent over the last year.

Tampa ranked third on the list with a 2.9 percent rent increase. Miami’s rents were up a moderate 1 percent.

Tucker said there is a connection between rising home prices and rents, but it’s a long-term correlation.

“Maybe some people have given up on buying a home and went back to renting,” Tucker said. “That could be what’s behind the increase in rent.”

Jaimie Ross, president and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, said Orlando and Florida can’t build apartments and other affordable housing fast enough for the growing population.

Florida, which was once known for its low cost of living, now has a major shortage of affordable housing, Ross said.

“There are not enough apartments for everyone that needs them,” Ross said. “Apartments will charge what the market will bear and right now that’s a lot.”

The rising rent prices are concerning, even in a growing economy, Ross said.

Workers in the Orlando area did see a strong year for income growth at 3.5 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Economic Research.

But that wasn’t enough to keep up with the increase in rents, particularly for the thousands that work in the region’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

“Service workers can’t really afford to spend a lot of their income on housing,” Ross said.

Ross said the answer is more state and national funding for affordable housing and rules requiring a greater number of affordable homes and apartments in new developments.

Zillow’s report is based on the listings and its market data tracking homes and apartments for rent on its website.

A report earlier this month that focused entirely on apartments from Rentcafe agreed that prices are going up. It said those prices had increased 6.1 percent over the last year to an average in the Orlando area of $1,389.

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