Southwest Florida rent prices continue to rise, report says

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:

For renters, finding a place to live in Southwest Florida that fits in their budget can feel like looking for gold at the end of a rainbow.

“Rent’s terrible,” one resident told WINK News.

A report from Florida Atlantic University, University of Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast University shows rent in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area is quickly squeezing more and more out of Southwest Floridians’ wallets.

Credit: Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index

“Whenever you go into the market to rent housing here, the prices are going up,” said FGCU Professor of Real Estate Dr. Shelton Weeks, Ph.D. “Unfortunately, that trend is continuing.”

Credit: Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index

Every month, the three universities release the Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index which breaks down the changes in rent in the country’s largest metropolitan areas. The Fort Myers-Cape Coral metro area has seen 13.1 percent increase in rent in April 2023 compared to the same time the year before, putting the area at the top of the year-over-year change list. From March 2023 to April 2023, rent went up 0.13 percent. North Port, Florida rent went down 0.48 percent.

Credit: Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index

“Our average rent is now above $2,300 whereas based on the historical trend, we’d expect it to barely be over $2,000,” Dr. Weeks recalled from the report.

That number does not include utilities.

“You think about trying to budget for that if you’re in this market, it’s going to be very challenging,” Dr. Weeks added.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says if someone is putting more than 30 percent of their income toward rent, they’re considered “rent burdened.” According to the Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index, you’d need to make $92,904.83 in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral metro area in order to not have that label.

 “The next column is ‘severely rent burdened.’ HUD describes that as an individual having to pay more than 50 percent of their gross [income] to cover housing expenses,” Dr. Weeks said looking at the report. “You see when you look at that number it’s almost $56,000 in Southwest Florida and again that’s without utilities. You put utilities there and that number is in the mid $60,000.”

Job search website Zip Recruiter lists the average salary for Southwest Florida at $44,487.

“Quite simply people have to move where they can afford to live,” said Dr. Weeks. “It means that it’s going to be harder for our first responders, our teachers, the folks that wait on us in the restaurants, where are they going to live?”

Hurricane Ian made this rental crisis even worse. Dr. Weeks said Southwest Florida lost thousands of apartments and homes.

“Whenever you have a storm event like Ian, you are going to lose some units. In particular, the units that you lose tend to be ones of maybe lower quality, older structures, which, unfortunately, are probably the most affordable from a rental standpoint,” Dr. Weeks aded.

And there’s no easy way to fix the problem.

“The only answer for us in terms of addressing the problem is to add supply to the housing market,” Dr. Weeks added. “To add supply to the housing market, it takes years. We have to figure out how to do that more efficiently and as fast as possible.”

Dr. Weeks believes that needs to include all types of housing, places Southwest Floridians can rent like apartments as well as homes and condominiums they can buy.

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