© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why rent prices are rising in Milwaukee

Miniature wooden houses and red arrow up. The concept of increasing the cost of housing. High demand for real estate. The growth of rent and mortgage rates. Sale of apartments. Population grows
Andrii Yalanskyi
Adobe Stock
Multiple factors are causing the cost of rent to go up.

About half of Milwaukee County renters are rent burdened, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum. That means they spend at least 30% of their income on rent. Rent prices are continuing to rise in the Milwaukee area, while the state’s minimum wage stays at $7.25 an hour.

Yaidi Cancel Martinez is an associate scientist at the Center for Economic Development and works in the department of urban planning at the UW-Milwaukee. She explains why rent prices are rising and how it will affect quality of life for people in Milwaukee.

"If people are looking to rent a unit, they're gonna see that the price is going up," she states.

In Martinez's research, she looked at new rental listings in the Milwaukee metro area to calculate the average cost of rent. She found for a one bedroom apartment the average cost of rent is around $1,300 to $1,500 a month.

"That, of course, varies, in terms of the size, in terms of the square footage, the number of bedrooms, and also the location," says Martinez.

She explains that there are multiple factors causing the cost of rent to go up. One of them is the number of low rental vacancies in the area.

Martinez explains, when the housing market has a rental vacancy between 4% and 6%, it is a sign that the market is in good shape. Now, the housing market is seeing rental vacancy at a rate of 1.5% to 3.5%. This means that the rental market is tight.

Compared to neighboring cities, like Racine, Milwaukee rent prices are slightly higher. But compared to Madison, rent is slightly lower. She also says compared to other Midwest cities, like the Twin Cities and Chicago, Milwaukee is slightly lower.

However, she adds that she doesn't expect the cost of rent to increase enormously over the next few months or so because other basic costs are also rising.

"If we add on the cost of transportation, the cost of food and other things that are necessities, basic necessities, that can put a lot of strain onto individuals and families, especially those with low and moderate incomes. So definitely this is quite a concern," says Martinez.

Martinez says because wages have remained stagnant, it's made affording rent difficult.

"Wages haven't kept up with the rising cost of housing in the past years. So, this is something we have to address the wage situation in our area to try to improve conditions for individuals and their families, and households in general," Martinez says.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
Related Content