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The downtown Kansas City, Missouri, skyline.

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Kansas City rental rates are skyrocketing, according to one of the nation’s leading apartment finders.

Apartment Guide’s April 2021 Rent Report lists Kansas City with the largest increase in rent of the 100 largest cities in the nation for one bedrooms. The report said rates jumped 33.5% since March of last year.

The average rent prices are based on March data — a full COVID-19 pandemic year — from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory. Apartment Guide is a major resource used by people looking for apartments.

Rates for two-bedrooms in Kansas City also increased significantly too, climbing 21.4%, according to the report. That places Kansas City at No. 9 for the largest increases over the past year. Wichita was close behind seeing its rates jump 21.1%.

According to the study that looked at the largest 100 cities in the United States, here are the locations with the biggest increases in one-bedroom rent prices over the past year. Averages were based on available units.

  1. Kansas City, MO (+33.5%)
  2. Gilbert, AZ (+26.0%)
  3. Las Vegas, NV (+25.3%)
  4. Riverside, CA (+24.9%)
  5. Buffalo, NY (+23.3%)
  6. Columbus, OH (+22.1%)
  7. Durham, NC (+20.0%)
  8. Detroit, MI (+18.6%)
  9. New Orleans, LA (+18.3%)
  10. Virginia Beach, VA (+15.3%)

Here are the cities with the biggest increases in two-bedroom rent prices over the past year.

  1. Riverside, CA (+56.0%)
  2. North Las Vegas, NV (+39.9%)
  3. Buffalo, NY (+38.6%)
  4. Detroit, MI (+32.5%)
  5. Las Vegas, NV (+31.1%)
  6. Gilbert, AZ (+30.1%)
  7. Memphis, TN (+24.2%)
  8. Hialeah, FL (+23.3%)
  9. Kansas City, MO (+21.4%)
  10. Wichita, KS (+21.1%)

The average rent in Kansas City for one bedroom apartments is $1,435 as of March, according to Apartment Guide’s listings data. The average two-bedroom rate is $1,774.

Kansas City housing market

Kansas City’s popularity may be partly to blame, said Brian Carberry, senior managing editor for Apartment Guide.

While he couldn’t speak directly about the Kansas City market, Carberry said that in general cities like Kansas City, Sacramento, St. Louis and Boise, Idaho, are becoming more popular and more in demand for renters.

“As such, we’re seeing prices going up there because of very limited supply,” he said. “Landlords have the ability to price things a little higher because they know there’s a strong rental market.”

Some of the cities that saw increases in rental rates also had a large influx of people moving into the area bringing more demand and competition for apartments, he said.

Another reason cities are seeing large increase is because of a drop in the inventory of affordable housing in the market, he said.

“When those cheaper apartments go off the market, everything else that’s there is going to drive that average up,” Carberry said.

Kansas City’s rent prices were based on the average of 450 units that were on the market the last day of March, which was higher than the available units the previous year. The study looks at only those apartments with a Kansas City, Missouri, address.

“This leads me to believe another reason for the price increase could be newer properties coming online or opening over the past year with more luxury or upscale amenities priced higher than the city average,” Carberry said. “We have seen similar trends in St. Louis.”

Another factor affecting rental rates could be the housing market itself.

“The housing market is just insane,” Carberry said. “If people want to get into a house or had savings, they’re finding it not feasible to do so just because of the competition.”

That could drive some people toward renting.

“I will say one of the trends that we’re seeing nationwide is there is a demand for larger unit sizes and this comes from a year into the pandemic,” he said. “Everyone just wants some more space.”

Rather than living in a one bedroom, people who can afford to do so are looking for a two or three bedroom apartments. Even if that means moving in with a roommate, Carberry said. That could be affecting Kansas City’s two-bedroom rental rates.

“You know, it’s not fun working in a kitchen for a year,” he said. “I think a lot of people are kind of sick and tired of it and are looking for more space where they can.”

The inventory included in Apartment Guide’s database tends to focus primarily on the larger apartment complexes. It does not include a house that is being rented, Carberry said.

While Kansas City ranked 38th in population, it had the 43rd highest rent for one bedroom apartments and 42nd highest rent for two bedroom apartments. Meanwhile, Wichita, which ranked 51st in population, had the 85th highest rent for one bedroom apartments and 92nd highest for two bedrooms.

Rankings were affected by nine cities not having rates for one bedroom apartments and eight cities not having rates for two bedroom apartments.

“The pandemic has kind of thrown things for a loop in terms of what the rental market is doing,” Carberry said. “Some of the cities where we’re seeing big declines are going to start rebounding and some of the cities where we’re seeing big increases should start leveling off as early as this summer.”

It could take longer, depending how the economy does.

“So these trends are temporary,” he said.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rockhurst College, where he studied communications and computer science.