Boca Rent Price Jumps Causing Affordable Housing Crisis

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Rental costs in Boca Raton have increased drastically. The trend is not slowing down either. For working class families and FAU students it’s more difficult than ever to find and afford a place to live in Boca. How has this happened and what can change it into the future? When will the trend reverse or stabilize? Is there any hope for affordable housing in Boca any more? Read on….

I put a poll on Reddit and ask people what they’d like me to write about. This topic won out over the other topics I suggested.

The average rental price in Boca Raton has risen over $1,350 compared to September of 2020.

Demand for residential homes in Boca Raton is higher than it ever has been. Affordable housing in Boca Raton has become more scarce than it was last year. Instead of the trend deaccelerating the prices are increasing. These are truly unprecedented times, with acceleration in housing costs beating 2006’s boom.

In Boca Raton, in September 2020, the average residential rental list price, across all cost levels, was $3,110 per month. Now, in June of 2021, the average active list price for those same kind of rentals is $4,460 per month. If it were as simple as tightening the belt or cutting some corners it wouldn’t be fair to call it a crisis. It’s moved beyond that. Conditions now are making impossible for some, who could have afforded to live here last year, to live here now. That’s not good.

rental prices in boca raton in 2021

Dark Clouds for Everyone Around the World but a Silver Lining for Boca Home Owners

The trigger for this crisis was something horrible that happened: the Covid-19 Pandemic. It’s caused people to want to move away from the cities of the north and down here to Florida where the authoritarian response to Covid-19 is felt to be more proportional to its statistical threat. People are voting with their dollars causing vacancies up there and high demand down here. If every cloud has a silver lining then the cloud called Covid rained its silver down on local property owners. It’s raining on us where it’s drying up badly elsewhere.

People who don’t own property are feeling it, especially families who’ve lost jobs due to the response by government to Covid-19. If you think Boca’s been hit hard, check out NYC. Closed businesses and decreased demand translate into less good jobs. You’ll see for yourself why people want to move from there out to Long Island, Upstate and down here. The trend had actually already started before Covid-19, due to taxes, and NYC isn’t alone. Chicago and other major cities of the Northeast are also feeling the same effects.

I have the data.

It would be one thing for me to write about this simply researching the data, but regarding this matter I’ve got first-hand experience. I’ve been right there on the front line with these folks, trying to prevent them from being without places to live. I acquired a real estate license in December of last year. Like programming or web publishing I don’t feel comfortable unless I learn a thing from the bottom up: using what we call a “full stack” approach. So I’ve been cutting my teeth learning contracts and familiarizing myself with the local market by helping renters. I’ve been a renter – these are my people. I thought I knew Boca before, but this experience has really opened my eyes to what’s happening here.  The struggle is real.

What does a 4 Bedroom Cost to Rent in Boca Raton –  Then and Now ?

Let me illustrate it for you with data drawn directly from our local MLS database: Beaches MLS, the most authoritative source for real time real estate information. Let’s consider the example of four roommates wanting to split a home in East Boca around FAU. We’ll look at what renters signed contracts for last year between May 7, 2020 and June 7, 2020, over the last month one year ago.

4BR Home Rental Costs in Boca, Closest to FAU, a Year Ago

(out of 25 4BR listings total in East Boca):

4BR, 2BA with pool right off of 40th St, 1,730 sqft – $3,650/mo
4BR, 2BA no pool northeast of FAU/40th St. , 1400 sqft – $2500/mo
4BR 2BA with pool south of the hospital, 1,618 sqft – $3800/mo
4BR 2BA with pool just south of Meadows Park, 1,739 sq ft – $3,300/mo

4BR Home Rental Costs in Boca, Closest to FAU, in the Last Month

(out of 14 4BR listings rented total in East Boca):

4BR, 2BA with no pool just south of the hospital, 1869 sqft – $3,600/mo
4BR, 2BA with pool Timbercreek north of mall – 2,237 sqft – $4,500/mo
4 BR, 2BA with pool just north of the mall, 1,490 sqft –  $4,000/mo
4BR, 2.5BA with pool west of 4th Ave, s. of Glades, 2,820 sqft – $8,500/mo

Observations: Giant difference, no doubt. You certainly have to pay a lot more in 2021 than you paid in 2020 to get an equivalent 4 bedroom home in Boca. College students were able to find 4 bedroom homes with pools for less than $1,000 per bedroom. Now, not so much.

What Can You Rent In Boca Between $3,500 and $4,000 per month?

Let’s look at it another way and ask “What does a budget between $3,500 and $4,000 get you now compared to a year ago?” Unless otherwise specified the properties below are single family homes. All of the units rented within the price and time ranges are shown.

Last Year’s rentals rented between 6/7 and 7/7 of 2020:

3BR, 2BA with pool – south of hospital – 1,950 sqft – $3,900/mo
4BR, 2BA with pool – south of hospital – 1,618 sqft – $3,800/mo
4BR, 2BA with pool – off 40th St – 1,730 sqft – $3,650/mo
3BR, 2.5BA townhome – Centra Lakeview- 2,161 sqft – $3,600/mo

Last Month’s rentals rented between 6/7 and 7/7 of 2021:

4BR, 2BA with pool north of the mall – 1,490 sqft  – $4,000/mo
3BR, 2.5BA townhouse in Centra Lakeview – 1,839 sqft  – $4,000/mo
3BR 2BA no pool near Lake Wyman Park – 2,167 sqft –  $4,000/mo
3BR, 2BA with pool north of the mall 1,521 – sqft  – $3,800/mo
3BR, 2.5BA townhouse in Centra – no waterfront view – 1,839 sqft  – $3,650/mo
4BR, 2BA no pool – south of hospital – 1,869 sqft – $3,600/mo
3BR 2BA no pool between Dixie and Federal – 1485 sqft – $3,500/mo

Observations: This year almost double the units were rented within that budget compared to the same time last year. Last year all of the single family homes in that price range included pools. This year only one home with less than 1,500 sq feet was rented with a pool for $4,000 or less in that same time frame. Prices have definitely gone up.

Four bedroom rentals aren’t available in the same numbers compared to 3BR or 2BR rentals. It’s actually less money per month to get two 2BR homes than it is to get one four bedroom home. It costs more per bedroom to put bedrooms under the same roof. Living in two nearby 2BR apartments isn’t as desirable to many FAU students who prefer living with four or more of their friends. With a lot of people moving from other states today’s FAU students face a really tough time competing for the large houses that used to be available.

What Can You Rent In Boca Between $1,750 and $2,000 per month?

Performing the same comparison on lower priced rentals, from $1,750 to $2,000 shows a difference between what you could get a year ago compared to now.

Last Year’s Rentals Between 6/7 and 7/7 of 2020:

3BR, 2BA no pool near Meadows Park – 1,500 sqft – $2,000/mo
2BR, 2BA villa in Windwood – 1,054 sqft – $2,000/mo
3BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 1,170 sqft – $1,975/mo
3BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 1,170 sqft – $1,950/mo
3BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 1,170 sqft – $1,950/mo
3BR, 2BA townhouse in Windwood – 1,600 sqft – $1,800/mo
3BR, 2BA townhouse in Boca Village – 1,268 sqft – $1,800/mo
2BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 920 sqft – $1,800/mo
2BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 920 sqft – $1,800/mo

Last Month’s Rentals Between 6/7 and 7/7 of 2021:

2BR, 2BA condo in Windwood – 935 sqft – $2,000/mo
2BR, 2BA no pool on Dixie – 1,150 sqft – $2,000/mo
2BR, 2BA condo south of FAU – 978 sqft – $1,900/mo
2BR, 2BA condo east of FAU – 936 sqft – $1,850/mo
2BR, 2BA duplex no pool on Dixie – 1,100 sqft –  $1,750/mo
2BR, 2BA condo off 40th St – 873 sqft – $1,750/mo

Observations: Back in 2020 there were a lot more 3 bedroom rentals available between $1,750 and $2,000 dollars per month in Boca Raton. You could get some decent size townhomes for rent then, but not now. Windwood is a highly sought after location for college students at FAU, but this year there were almost no units available for as little as they were being offered last year.

Things have changed, and continue to change drastically. Boca Raton is quickly becoming unaffordable for people who could afford it before. The units previously available in the lower price range have migrated into higher price ranges. We’ve known for some time that affordable housing was dwindling, but nobody expected the events that we’ve been through the past two years, nor could have predicted such sharp inflections in cost. An affordable housing crisis that wasn’t getting better in Boca has now become an affordable housing disaster.

Why is Affordable Housing in Boca Raton Still Important?

Al Zucaro, my buddy and publisher of BocaWatch, pointed out to me how so many of my friends had to move away from Boca after high school and college. The costs of living here are just too steep. My friends, like me, had to move out of Boca to find careers in order to afford to move back to Boca! Families who stay here for multiple generations seem more of a novelty here than the rule.

Where does the resistance to affordable housing stem from?

Property owners who are attracted to owning part of an affluent and appreciating location have justifiable reasons for not wanting affordable housing next door. Residents attracted to the quiet of a bedroom community often think they can maintain more peace by keeping affordable homes, with the younger and more noisy resident they attract, farther away.

But why does having available affordable housing in Boca matter to us who are already comfortable here? 

Hey! Let’s get real about real estate~~

When you call for services and they ask you for your zip code before giving you prices, it’s not because you’re going to get a “good will Boca neighbor discount.” It’s because it’s standard practice in South Florida to charge you more if you’re in Boca.

While excluding people who need affordable homes may seem like it’s keeping it more quiet, it doesn’t guarantee peace, and openly foments sometimes tragic animosity. I’ve worked in the service industry and with the needy. I’ve heard it more than once: people totally dissing us without even knowing us, because of where we live. If you’ve somehow remained ignorant of that sentiment then kudos to you – your life is good and you’re fortunate to have remained above it.

Here’s as real as it gets: affordable housing, here in our town, means the people we’re depending on don’t see us as an “other” or as “their oppressors” but instead know us as neighbors. The world isn’t what it was even a year ago. This is especially true where it counts a lot: the cost of a place to live. The social fabric of this country is based on perceptions that can change even faster. It has already changed so much in lots of places in the USA and we’re certainly not on an island – people fortunate to be here are more like on the good end of a stick. The kind of rhetoric that is critical of people who’ve gained fortune is intensifying. If we want to “stay real” it means tempering our abundant ability to create an exclusive fantasy land for ourselves.  The cost of intemperance is too real.

So what’s going to happen to the inventory of affordable homes here in Boca?

With the trend in current home prices is there any hope it might get better? Most recent attempts where developers have tried to get affordable housing developments approved have been shot down by City Council. We’ve had some drips and drabs, but most of the development approved has been on the higher end of cost either Downtown or north of Yamato. As a whole, inventory isn’t expanding at the rate that is keeping up with current demand.

Will it stop here with the cost of 2BR homes this year being last year’s cost for 3BR homes? Or will it go on to where the cost of this year’s 4BR home gets renters only 3 bedrooms next year? Without any other influences on this market, the latter seemed likely.

A Dark Cloud Might Bring Rain for People in Need of Affordable Housing

Maybe there’s another dark cloud that’s appeared that has a kind of silverish lining, at least for people who need affordable homes: the collapse of the Champlain Tower in Surfside.

Earlier this week the rescue operation shifted into a recovery operation, so the time has come to bring this up. Simply put: condos high in the sky look different than they did a month ago. It’s difficult to imagine how this horrible event won’t negatively impact condo values.

The Future of High Rise Oceanfront Condo Prices: Affordable Housing?

What will happen now? That could depend on a lot of things. It’s likely that the Surfside event doesn’t have much of an impact at all on the rate of price increase for oceanfront condos in South Florida. Value is all about perception and the inventory of total condos built isn’t going to change substantially.

There are also other possibilities where the price of condos is impacted. This could translate into High Rise condo prices changing, ultimately shifting a some of this area’s inventory into affordable housing. Is it likely? Here’s some tough questions whose answers will matter to today’s condo owners.

  • What if the demand for skyrises on the ocean plummets?
  • What if the people who can afford to live yesterday’s expensive oceanfront condos get freaked out and would rather rent somewhere else, and lease their skyrise units even at a loss?
  • Could it result in buildings that aren’t condemned yet few people choose to live in?
  • Would condo owners be economically incentivized to bring the buildings down for rebuilds or simply leave them alone to create whatever revenue they can?
  • Could this result in an expanding inventory of lower priced housing, oceanside?
  • Would there be some people who will ignore the perceived risk because there’s few other places to go and take advantage of the lower prices?

There’s no certainty which way the market for condos will go, or if the answers to these questions can move the needle at all with regards to condo prices. Only time will tell whether upcoming sales prices for condos in larger buildings end up being lower than they were two weeks ago or just keep getting higher.

If you’re a condo owner and reading all this has made you a little anxious, please accept my apologies. That’s not my intention. Other articles will be written about this soon, by other authors on other publications. My intention is to keep my neighbors informed so we can stay ahead of the curve, be a little in front of the rest of South Florida, rather than learning about it in hindsight when reaction to it may not be as affordable. I’m not saying I have much of a clue which way it will go – but I am saying you should keep an eye on it.

Here’s some consolation: nobody else is talking about this yet. This website isn’t popular outside of Boca Raton and very few other people are likely to read as much of this article as you have. You’re part of a small number of people will hear this kind of analysis for now.

Keep Informed

I’m not going to leave you in the dark without any means to be informed about changes. You can keep up to date every day here, with my direct connection into the MLS database I make available to you right here on this website, 4boca.com. Being able to give you access to this database, on my website here, is a perk of having a real estate license and being part of the local realtor board. We’re lucky to have this kind of technology available today where I can share it with you here, 24/7.

Look at condo asking prices and condo sale prices in similar units to yours as often as you like. Please use it. If you’re one of those people, like me, who love looking at real estate pictures more please check out goodboca.com – homes for sale in Boca Raton & rentals.goodboca.com – homes for rent in Boca Raton. Keep informed. I wish you the best of fortune in navigating the challenges and opportunities of this uncertain future.

What Will Ultimately Determine Whether Condo Market Changes Make Housing Here More Affordable?

Will condo market changes translate into more oceanfront condo rental opportunities? Wouldn’t there be, at a minimum, an indirect effect on the affordable housing market? Undoubtedly. However magnitude matters more than whether it’s ultimately occurring or not. Will it result in Section 8 housing in condo high rises in Boca Raton? Highly unlikely. Almost all of the variables that could line up to cause it are in condo owner’s hands and there’s little government can do that won’t exacerbate the devaluation of condos. It’s really all on the condo owners and the demand that comes from people likely to be moving into Boca Raton from higher towers anyway. That demand might slow down, but it can’t cease. Or can it? Please share with me what you think.

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