NEW YORK, July 5 (Reuters) - High gasoline prices in the second quarter helped stabilize the overall U.S. apartment market, as some areas saw growing demand for rental housing closer to where people work, Reis Inc reported on Saturday.
Despite a U.S. economic slowdown and rising unemployment, the average apartment rent, including concessions, rose 1.1 percent in the second quarter to $994 a month, up from the 0.8 rise in the first quarter and narrowly trailing the 1.3 percent increase in the second quarter of 2008, said Reis, a real estate research firm.
The average asking rent grew slightly less, up 1.0 percent, indicating that landlords did not have to offer as many months free rent or other concessions to attract tenants.
The U.S. apartment vacancy rate stood firm at 5.9 percent, a hair more than last year’s 5.8 percent.
Some cities, such as Philadelphia, are starting to see more demand for apartments closer to bus lines or that will provide shorter commutes, Reis Chief Economist Sam Chandan said in an interview.
Philadelphia saw rents grow by 1.3 percent in the second quarter to $979 a month.
“As gas prices go up, particularly in the case of cities that have relatively weak public transportation, there’s some upward pressure on rents as you get closer to downtown or wherever the jobs are located,” Chandan said.
Rising gasoline prices also are making for-rent houses less competitive with apartments because, in many places, they are farther away than business centers.
“In general, you see houses are not as good a substitution;.condos are,” Chandan said.
Of the top 79 markets that Reis tracks, the New York market remained the tightest with vacancy unchanged at 2.2 percent. Jacksonville, Florida was the weakest with vacancy growing 0.4 percentage point to 10.8 percent.
Louisville, Kentucky saw the greatest decline in vacancy, down 0.8 percentage point to 6.2 percent, while Columbia, Missouri saw the greatest rise, up 0.9 percentage point to 10.4 percent. (Editing by Jonathan Oatis)