Buildings with one to four units are a crucial source of rental housing, accounting for about half of all US rental units. Rental units in these buildings are more likely to be owned by individual landlords than by institutional investors, and, especially in two-to-four-unit buildings, they are more affordable than units in larger multifamily buildings.
The pandemic’s economic effects have threatened this essential piece of the market. Renters who lost their jobs because of the pandemic have struggled to keep up with monthly payments. As a result, many individual landlords have lost a major source of income, and some are feeling pressure to sell their properties—which could remove lower-cost units from a market that already lacks affordable housing.
We’re tracking monthly rent payments in units owned by independent mom-and-pop landlords since January 2020 to see how the pandemic and ongoing recovery efforts have affected renters and owners of these properties. Using data provided by Avail, an online rental property management platform for independent mom-and-pop landlords, we can explore whether renters nationally and in certain states and metropolitan areas are able to keep up with their monthly payments.
About the Data
Note: On February 2, 2022, in addition to our monthly update, we removed Wisconsin from the list of states available in our tracker to explore a potential issue with the state’s data. We will add Wisconsin back to the tracker when we resolve the issue.
We obtain these data directly from Avail through our strategic partnership, which started in August 2020. Avail enables independent landlords to list rental units, screen tenants, and collect rent for more than 40,000 properties in the US. Ninety-five percent of landlords on the platform own properties with one to four units, and 98 percent of Avail landlords own fewer than 10 properties in total.
The data in this feature show the share of rental payments collected by landlords, as calculated and recorded by Avail. Avail has tabulated these data at the national, state, and metropolitan area levels. To include a state or metropolitan area in this feature, we require a minimum of 500 payment data observations in the month with the most observations and 350 payment data observations in the month with the fewest observations. When a state or metropolitan area crosses that sample size threshold, it will be included in the analysis as of the date it first crosses that threshold. The option to view payments for only renters with the lowest 20 percent of rent costs is available only for the national view because of sample size limitations at the state and metropolitan area levels.
Additional resources produced through our Avail partnership
This feature was funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of our experts.
DESIGN Christina Baird
EDITING David Hinson
WRITING Emily Peiffer