July 6, 2020

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

Apartment rental prices are edging down and it is directly linked to COVID-19.

Zumper, which monitors apartments for rent nationwide, said:

The demand for rentals has continued to shift away from these pricey areas and a significant amount of that demand seems to be moving toward neighboring, less expensive areas. Similar to the trend we saw in New York, the “Brooklyn Effect” has become more pronounced as some of the largest monthly rent price increases in the nation occurred in satellite cities. For example, in our top markets, while Boston and San Francisco rents were on the decline, Providence and Sacramento prices were both up around 5% last month.

The “Brooklyn Effect” refers to the migration of younger to middle-aged professionals who are priced out of more expensive pockets of a city. WNBC said even in New York City, renters have found they have leverage these days.

But just as rents in cities are going down, rents in suburban areas and satellite cities are rising.

(Zumper)

Here is Zumper’s latest data for major American metros:

Upward rents

Lexington, KY moved up 3 spots to become the 89th most expensive city with one-bedroom rent jumping 5.6%, which was the largest monthly growth rate in the nation, to $750.

Anchorage, AK was catapulted up 5 positions to rank as 60th with one-bedroom rent growing 5.5% to $960.

Augusta, GA saw one-bedroom rent climb 5.3%, settling at $790, and up 4 rankings to 84th. Two-bedrooms had a more modest growth rate, increasing 3.5% to $880.

Akron, OH jumped up 1 spot to become the 99th priciest market with one-bedroom rent growing 5.2% to $610 and two-bedrooms increasing 1.4% to $730.

Portland, OR moved up 4 rankings to 21st with one-bedroom rent climbing 5.2% to $1,420, while two-bedrooms increased 3.6% to $1,750.

Downward

Madison, WI took an 8 ranking plunge to 44th with one-bedroom rent falling 5.3%, which was the largest monthly decline in the country, to $1,080, while two-bedrooms decreased 0.8% to $1,310.

San Jose, CA remained the 4th priciest city, though one-bedroom rent dropped 5% to $2,300 and two-bedrooms declined 3.1% to $2,860.

Laredo, TX experienced a 6 spot drop to 86th with one-bedroom rent decreasing 3.7% to $780, while two-bedrooms dipped 3.3% to $890.

Buffalo, NY saw one-bedroom rent fall 3.6%, settling at $1,080, and down 5 positions to become the 44th most expensive market. Two-bedrooms had a more modest decline, decreasing a slight 0.7% to $1,350.

Irving, TX moved down 4 spots to rank as the 44th priciest city, now tied with Buffalo, with one-bedroom rent dipping 2.7% to $1,080 and two-bedrooms dropping 1.4% to $1,390.

(Zumper)

Renters are still making on-time payments

The National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker found that “94.2% of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by June 27.”

The survey of 11 million apartment units around the country showed almost no change from May, meaning most households are still able to make rent payments on time.

Americans are saving a huge amount of their money right now

The Federal Reserve said Americans saved an amazing 32% of their incomes in April and 23% in May. I went back 60 years in Fed records and no month comes close to that amount.

(Data and graphic from the Federal Reserve)

Here come the evictions

Just consider that in the last four weeks, as Houston filled hospital intensive care units with COVID-19 patients, the county logged more than 2,200 eviction cases.

The New York Times wrote:

20 states, including Louisiana, Texas, Colorado and Wisconsin, have lifted their restrictions and researchers have tracked thousands of recent eviction filings in places where data is available. Eviction bans in nine other states and at the federal level are set to expire by the end of the month. All told, Amherst College anticipates that nearly 28 million households are at risk of being turned out onto the streets because of job losses tied to the pandemic.

The Eviction Tracker System is building a database of city-by-city evictions that should become valuable once eviction moratoriums, put in place as the pandemic began to take its toll on the economy, wear off.

The federal government does not track evictions and most state governments don’t either, so you have to look county-by-county for court orders. That is time-consuming for sure.

Gun ownership background checks set a new record in June

The FBI said it performed 3.9 million gun ownership background checks in June, a record. Those background checks are a sign of pending gun sales. The federal government does not track gun sales so the background check is the best indicator we have of how many guns might have been purchased.

Small Arms Analytics, a consulting firm, estimated there may have been 2.4 million gun sales, largely handguns, in June. The firm said handgun sales likely increased 177% over a year ago and that rifle and shotgun sales more than doubled. Small Arms Analytics said there was a noticeable spike in gun sales the first week of June, probably linked to the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

Notice this graphic from Small Arms Analytics that shows week-by-week data on FBI background checks. The biggest spike came in mid-March just as people were making a run on grocery stores, schools and businesses were closing and stay-at-home orders had just begun.

(FBI/NICS)

The Associated Press used the FBI data to put background checks in context:

(Associated Press)

The Trace explained:

All four weeks of June rank among the six busiest weeks (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) has ever recorded. Over a million checks were conducted during the first week of the month alone.

Checks for handguns, long guns, and multiple guns — the categories that serve as a proxy for sales — increased in every state and Washington, D.C., last month compared to June 2019. In 42 states, the number more than doubled.

Americans are angry and fearful

This new survey from Pew might help to explain the gun sales numbers.

(Pew)

Pew explained the data:

Anger and fear are widespread. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they feel both sentiments when thinking about the country, though these feelings are more prevalent among Democrats. And just 17% of Americans – including 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 10% of Democrats and Democratic leaners — say they feel proud when thinking about the state of the country.

However, nearly half of adults (46%) say they feel hopeful about the state of the country, although a 53% majority says they are not hopeful.

Jails and prisons: Where COVID-19 locks you away from everyone

19 states will not allow any visitation at state prisons. In 40% of the country, lawyers cannot visit clients and families cannot visit their incarcerated relatives. Prisoners are locked away with no end in sight.

The Marshall Project is trying to keep an updated map of state rules.

More than 52,000 people in prison have tested positive for COVID-19 and the number is still rising. There have been at least 616 COVID-19 related deaths in prisons. That number is more than the total number of cases for the entire state of Tennessee, Alabama or Indiana. More people have died from COVID-19 in prisons than the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Nevada — or Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota combined.

Add to those the at least 11,000 COVID-19 cases among prison staff and at least 19 deaths involving staff, although there is every reason to believe that number is actually higher. That number of cases is equal to the total number of cases in Oregon or Delaware.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new edition of Covering COVID-19. Sign up here to get it delivered right to your inbox.

Al Tompkins is senior faculty at Poynter. He can be reached at atompkins@poynter.org or on Twitter, @atompkins.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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