Apartment vacancy rate falls to lowest level since 2001

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. apartment vacancy rate fell to its lowest level in more than a decade, but persistent stagnant income growth for U.S. workers has tempered the ability of landlords to raise rents, according to an industry report released on Wednesday.

The national apartment vacancy rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 4.3 percent in the first quarter, the lowest since the fourth quarter 2001, according to a preliminary report by real estate research firm Reis Inc. Rents, on the other hand, grew by 0.5 percent, the smallest increase since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Over the past five years, the apartment sector has been the beneficiary of the U.S. housing bust, the economic recovery, high mortgage requirements, and a constrained supply of new apartments. Those factors have pushed down the vacancy rate and allowed apartment owners, such as Equity Residential (EQR.N), Essex Property Trust Inc (ESS.N) and AvalonBay Communities Inc (AVB.N) to push up rents.

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