After a spike in vacancy rates and a decline in rental housing costs during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, Mountain View's rental market has nearly returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, according to data collected by the city.
The rental data, reviewed by the city's Rental Housing Committee on Monday, March 28, shows a slow but steady return to normal over the course of 2021 and into 2022, both for rent-controlled units and market rate units.
Casting a cloud over the rosy market outlook, however, is the troubled California rent relief program that has been slow to get money to landlords for unpaid rent debt accrued during the pandemic. State officials announced in June 2021 that the program would pay off all unpaid rent for eligible households, but since then less than half of the money has been distributed.
Families waiting on the state's sluggish rent relief have been shielded from evictions through April 1, though the state Legislature is moving quickly this week to extend that date to June 30.
As it stands, California has still only processed 223,103 of the more than 500,000 applications for rent relief, according to the state's dashboard, meaning 56% are still waiting to receive assistance. The state has received 945 applications from Mountain View tenants, of which 430 have been served through the program. Average assistance to families in the city is $11,103, with a total of $4.7 million received so far.
The majority of those receiving help through the state are identified as Hispanic or Latino, who make up 17.2% of the city's population, and the vast majority are lower-income families. Just over 57% of those who applied are considered extremely low-income, meaning they earn less than 30% of the area's median income.
Prior to the pandemic, Mountain View's average rents had peaked at around $3,000, while units covered by the city's rent control ordinance topped out at $2,658. Those rates declined starting in March 2020 and reached a low in December 2020 of $2,656 across all units and $2,371 among rent-controlled units.
Vacancy rates shot up as well, with the city's overall rental market peaking at 13% in January 2021. Households living in rent-controlled units were less inclined to move away, with vacancy rates reaching 10.5% in the same month. Prior to the pandemic, rent-controlled units had just a 3.7% vacancy rate.
Following more than a full year of recovery from that high point, vacancy rates in the city are now down to 6.1%, while rental costs have slowly rebounded. The average market rent has gone up by $372 since December 2020 and reached $3,028 in February. Rent-controlled units have seen a slower increase over the same period, bumping up $188 to $2,559.
The rental units most susceptible to these wild swings caused by the pandemic are the ones built after 2015, which Mountain View tracks separately. Before the pandemic, the average asking rents were $4,400, which dropped to a low of $3,581 before slowing recovering. Vacancy rates for the units hit a staggering 37.5%.