The coronavirus-fueled exodus from cities to smaller urban centers has had dramatic effects on the already bullish Durham housing market: Rental prices have gone up. A lot.

Rent in the Bull City shot up has higher than anywhere else in the country since the onset of the pandemic, a new study by Apartment Guide found.  

Analyzing apartment listings on its website, the study compared rental rates between March and August in more than 200 cities with populations above 100,000. 

Durham’s rental increases for both one bedroom and two bedroom apartments were significantly higher than the rest of the country: The national average for 1 bedroom apartments listed on the site rose by less than one percent between March and August. In Durham, the average rent for a one bedroom was $995 in March and $1,333 by August—a striking 34 percent increase.

The national increase in 2 bedroom apartments, meanwhile, rose a whopping 1.7 percent. In Durham, Apartment Guide had the average two bedroom rental at $1,187 in March and $1,501 in August, which comes out to a 26.5 percent increase. It’s worth noting that rental prices fluctuate seasonally and this data draws from very low initial 2020 rental rates—nevertheless, apartment rental rates are still significantly higher than this time last year, and much higher than the national rental rate, which has trended downward during the pandemic.  

The pandemic isn’t solely to blame for rent hikes, though. As Matt Hartman wrote in last week’s INDY Week cover story, commercial properties in Durham are increasingly controlled by out-of-state power brokers. In Durham, as much as 75 percent of the city’s apartment units are controlled by ownership outside the state. These conglomerations have made Durham a national case study for soulless ownership in an already gentrifying city. 

As INDY staff writer Thomasi McDonald wrote last month, Durham’s current gentrification pattern is the insidious inverse of the white flight of the 60’s and 70’s—instead, of a city-to-suburb pipeline, many people are “fleeing the suburbs and exurbs for racially mixed urban regions, enriching them—but not to the benefit of longtime Black residents.” 

One has to wonder why Durham even holds such magnetic appeal to Apartment Guide hunters, given its humdrum ratings on the website—according to Durham’s city profile on the site, the only thing that marginally tips the scales are public parks, while healthcare, fine arts, and dining are all rated average. But a walk around Durham reveals how quickly the city’s housing market is changing, with developments chugging along, even as the city’s unemployment rate remains higher than the rest of the state.

Or, you could just watch a locally viral video from the luxury home developer Bull City Mod, which features a pair of transplants offering their own cringe-worthy assessment of the city’s housing market: that their new Durham home offers appropriate garage space for their “summer car.”

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One reply on “Apartment Rents Shot Up More in Durham the Last Six Months Than Anywhere Else in the Country”

  1. How can health care, fine arts and dining in Durham be rated “average?” Compared to what?

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