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Rents Rise Even As Apartment Construction Booms In Jacksonville Area

The Jacksonville Daily Record
This rendering shows a proposed San Marco apartment complex.

While apartment construction in the rest of the country dipped over the last year, the Jacksonville metro apartment inventory grew by more than half over the same time period, according to preliminary data and projections compiled by apartment market researcherYardi Matrix.

That same survey found the Jacksonville metro area has the fourth-fastest rising rents among large cities.

Yardi studies more than 130 markets around the U.S. and collects data on more than 16 million apartments on a monthly basis, said the firm’s Director for Business Intelligence Doug Ressler.

The research involves a little bit of stretching the truth, Ressler said.

“We call as renters and we try and find the rental quotes that a renter would walk into and get from a property,” he said. “So, we do every property. We do every unit configuration in the property and we call as renters on a continuing basis.”

Ressler said in addition to providing paying subscribers with data on housing stock, the firm also calls developers in major metros to collect information about planned construction.

The researchers concluded developers in the Jacksonville metro area — which Yardi classifies as Duval, Clay, Nassau and Saint Johns counties — are building 2,576 units this year, compared with 1,710 in 2017. The 2018 number is largely a projection because many apartment developments are in early planning stages and the year is a little more than half over.

As the Jacksonville area’s apartment stock skyrockets, its rent prices are also steadily ticking upward, on track to increase by almost 6 percent over last year while the national rent growth rate is projected to be static. But Ressler said the area’s 2.5 percent job growth and swelling population could help renters keep pace.

“It’s very bullish right now,” he said. “Jacksonville is running above the national average for non-farm employment. When you look at the employment sectors that Jacksonville offers, it offers a wide variety. So, it’s not strictly a one industry town… it has shown positive growth among all those different categories.”

As comprehensive as Yardi’s commercial apartment data set is, the researcher is only tracking “market rate properties,” which are units that aren’t restricted by affordable housing laws. Market rate properties are by and large out of reach for most of Duval County’s poor. In its 2016“Jacksonville Block by Block” study, researchers at the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund found more than three-fourths people earning less than 30 percent of the area’s median income — less than $18,990 — are “extremely cost-burdened” when it comes to housing, meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates, in order to rent a studio or one-bedroom apartment, a Duval County resident would need to earn at least $24,160 to $31,000 a year.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.