Brookline’s apartment rental market has been slow to recover from the affects of COVID-19, in particular the symptom of high vacancies. Comparing the current vacancy rate in September of 2021 (1.84% for Brookline apartments) to the pre-pandemic level in September 2019, Brookline has the 4th largest increase in vacancy rate out of all Metro Boston (+135.9%), and the highest increase among suburb neighborhoods.
It’s important to note that the current vacancy rate of 1.84% is still lower than that of Metro Boston (1.98%). However, the fact that the vacancy rate for Boston apartments has increased by a much smaller margin since September 2019 (+39.44%) hints at a slower recovery for the Brookline rental market.
Brookline has historically been a rental market where vacancies always trended lower than that of Metro Boston as a whole. High rent prices combined with lower turnover has always been the norm in Brookline, but it seems the apartment surplus has been slow to wane in Brookline.
So what’s causing this trend? The adoption and elimination of remote learning at most of Boston’s schools has been attributed as the main cause of the apartment supply surplus we experienced in 2020, as well as the subsequent contraction seen in 2021. This could also be the reason it has failed to contract similarly in Brookline.
Boston College, located in nearby Brighton, is one of the few Boston schools still embracing the remote learning trend. They are offering in-person classroom settings this year, but limiting classes to 50 students. They are also heavily promoting remote learning for students, more so than other local schools that have admitted the shortcomings of remote learning.
Being that Brookline is a big market for off-campus apartments near Boston College, their stance on remote learning could be a main driver of the rental market’s slow recovery. In nearby Jamaica Plain, also a popular enclave for Boston College students, the vacancy rate is sitting at +191.18% compared to September 2019.
Regardless, Brookline remains one of Boston’s premier rental markets in terms of rent prices, and that is not likely to change soon. Rent prices have been dropping in Brookline to try and spur demand, and we’re expecting the market to turn around in 2022.