For most of this cycle, luxury apartments have been opening in gateway markets, like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. But RentCafe's Nadia Balint says this luxury trend is spreading to under-the-radar locales, like Kansas City and Milwaukee too.

Ultimately, that just shifts the scales even further in favor of luxury.

A closer look at the data reveals that in 2015, 75% of all large multifamily rental developments completed were high-end rentals. The ratio of high-end to total apartments completed increased by a staggering 63% from 2012. In absolute numbers, this translates into 896 luxury multi-family projects of 50+ units (out of a total of 1,188 total projects) completed in 2015, compared to 382 luxury multi-family projects of 50+ units completed 3 years prior.

Balint says affordability is the real loser in this trend of more new luxury openings combined with rising rents.

While lower-income households have been struggling with rising rates for decades, middle-income renters are affected the most by this trend. The rent crunch is climbing up the ladder to middle-income renters. With fewer affordable options, many double-income professionals who used to populate the urban cores are being priced out of the areas where they want to live. They are forced to choose between spending more than they can afford on rent and utilities, or settle for older buildings, in less attractive locations.

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