Backed by a historically strong Mid-Atlantic multifamily market with a diverse unemployment base of Feds (Federal Government), Eds (Education) and Meds (Health Services), Baltimore continues to show its resiliency during recessions as compared to other markets around the country.
Despite tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the country sustaining heavy job losses, the Baltimore market fared well compared to other metros. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baltimore ranked 8th in the nation for the lowest unemployment rate at 8.0% ending June 2020, compared to 11.2% nationally.
In the historical context, Baltimore has proven to be a recession-resistant market. Coming out the Great Recession, CBRE ranked Baltimore as the #1 market with the least impacted rent growth in the nation and it recovered in just six quarters, compared to a national average of 12 quarters. We expect Baltimore to continue its historical track record during this current recessionary environment.
Asking rents continue to grow in Baltimore, and effective rents in the metro experienced a quarterly increase of 1% ending Q3 2020. Data from CoStar/Apartments.com shows that there was a temporary 30 to 45 day decrease in asking rents when the pandemic first hit which soon reversed in May 2020.
However, asking rents are not increasing in all parts of Baltimore. Submarkets that are development-heavy with a lot of Class A inventory available or in the pipeline are experiencing the most declines in asking rents throughout the metro. These markets are primarily in downtown Baltimore and nearby surrounding areas. This downward trend can be attributed to “Urban flight” as we are beginning to see a population shift from dense inner cities to less crowded suburbs due the impact of COVID-19. According to Yardi Matrix, over 3,200 units are set to be completed by year-end, which can mark a significant increase in both inventory and vacancies in these markets.
Submarkets such as Northeast and West Baltimore registered gains in asking rents of over 2% through the end of Q3, due to their historical affordability for renters by necessity. Affordable areas in Baltimore rarely experience any threat to increased supply as new developments are virtually non-existent in these markets. That keeps vacancies tight and demand high. This truly shows how resilient the Baltimore rental market is given the current economic downturn.
Baltimore’s occupancy rate held steadily at 94% ending September 2020 according to ALN Data. Occupancy in affordable properties were 95.1%, while effective rents in the metro represented a quarterly increase of 1%. As a whole, concessions increased due to the onset of the pandemic, given the tactical approach that many owners took to either retain their tenant base or solicit new tenants. Since then ALN reports that concessions began to decrease toward the end of Q3. Only 4.8% of affordable properties were offering concessions, compared to 14.1% in market-rate properties. This only adds to the strength and resilience of workforce housing in Baltimore.
Baltimore lost almost 240,000 jobs in the 12 months ending in May according to Yardi Matrix. The unemployment rate rose from 3.5% in March to high of over 10% in April. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate ending July 2020 was 7.7% with a preliminary rate of 6.6% for August 2020, compared to 10.2% and 8.4% nationally.
Baltimore is on pace to rebound well from the pandemic given its location in the recession-resistant Mid-Atlantic market. With a diverse employment base, decreasing unemployment rates and stable rents, these metrics foreshadow a strong future. This data also shows that during a downturn, Baltimore is among the top performing markets in the country for multifamily.
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