Philly rents grew 6% during the pandemic, but they increased twice as fast in the suburbs

The cost of renting in Philadelphia is lower than many other major cities, but over half of tenants are “cost-burdened.”

New apartments on Ridge Avenue in Francisville

New apartments on Ridge Avenue in Francisville

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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Rent is up in Philadelphia since the pandemic landed, but city dwellers have been hit by less intense cost increases than renters in the surrounding counties.

The city has seen average rents jump by about 6% over the past two years, while rents in the suburbs grew by 2 to 3 times that amount.

In the Pennsylvania collar counties — Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Bucks — rent has risen between 12% and 15% since 2020. In New Jersey, the three counties bordering Philadelphia have seen rents jump 14% to 20%.

The data comes from real estate search firm CoStar Group, and was analyzed by The Washington Post earlier this week.

That Philly rents rose less than surrounding areas may be linked in part to demand. While people kept moving to big metropolitan centers during the pandemic, they tended to favor the suburban parts of those areas, according to a recent Pew report.

Monthly rent in Philadelphia is still relatively high. It averages $1,624, which is more than all but two of the surrounding counties, Montgomery and Chester.

The high cost of housing in the city has been a problem for years. Over half of renters in the city are “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, Pew data shows. If you include homeowners, 40% of the city’s households fall into this category. Philadelphia does not have a rent control program like some other places.

Zooming out to the Philly metro area, which includes a wide swath of the suburbs, rent has gone up 12% during the pandemic — just higher than the national average.

Nationally, rents increased by 11.3% last year, CoStar found, which is a record for single-year growth.

And the rise isn’t slowing: data shows that pace of growth continuing through the first part of 2022. Average nationwide rent will likely increase another 6% by the end of this year, CoStar projects.

Other big cities had similar relationships to their suburbs when it comes to rent changes during the pandemic. Of the 10 largest cities in the U.S., six saw lower-than-average rent increases in their areas since 2020.

Percentage-wise, New York and San Jose saw smaller jumps than Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, at 6.7%, was nearly the same. But those three cities all had average rent much higher than Philly’s before the pandemic started, and still do now.

Buying a home in the Philly area has also gotten more expensive since 2020. Median home prices in the metro area grew more than 20% from March 2020 to March 2022, reaching $308K, according to data from Bright MLS.

Additionally, homeowning residents throughout the city are likely to see their property tax bill grow in the near future. The city does offer relief programs.

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