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Silicon Valley multifamily housing: rental rates up over 2020 dip

report coverRenters burdened by costs +30% of gross income

September 16, 2021 – Rental rates for multifamily housing in Silicon Valley have increased over the 2020 dip, with a large share of renters paying more than 30% of their income for housing, according to new analysis from Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Institute for Regional Studies. The Silicon Valley Multifamily Housing report, released today in partnership with CBRE’s Silicon Valley Multifamily Group, provides a snapshot of the trends in the region’s housing market for residential structures with more than one dwelling unit in the same building. Data in the report focuses on Silicon Valley (encompassing San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties and the Cities of Fremont, Newark, and Union City) with select reference data for San Francisco and the Bay Area overall.

Multifamily housing is of critical importance to the region. Silicon Valley continues to address severe housing shortages and rising prices due to elevated demand. There is a persistent need for more residential units, particularly those that are affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

The report is intended to provide a deep look into the multifamily residential space, with data illustrating trends in development locations and density, rental rate, occupancy, and more. The data show that more than four out of ten multifamily renter households spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent, imposing moderate to severe financial burdens (based the definition of housing burden by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). This compares to a slightly lower (37%) of renters living in single-family homes.

“Silicon Valley jurisdictions are looking toward greater density and mixed-use development near transportation infrastructure,” said Jefrey Henderson, Executive Vice President of CBRE’s Silicon Valley Multifamily Group, the Institute’s partner on this report. “Through rezoning efforts, cities are maximizing the linkages between employers and residents, allowing for more housing near job centers.”

“With the amount of multifamily housing currently under construction, it’s clear that our region is prioritizing high-density development and working to increase the number of units available,” Rachel Massaro, the Institute’s Director of Research. “Looking at those projects in aggregate, though, it was eye-opening to see how few of the nearly 6,000 units were slated to be affordable to low- or very-low income renters.”


  • Based on the first half of 2021, the estimated number of residential units in building permits issued this calendar year will be more than double that of 2020, with a large share (65%) in multi-family.
  • There are 15 notable large multifamily residential developments under construction in 2021 with a total of 5,932 units. The largest number of units are in San Jose (1,398 at three sites), Sunnyvale (1,101 at two sites), Mountain View (1,079 at three sites), and Santa Clara (953 at two sites).
  • In comparison to an average 21 dwelling units per acre (du/acre) for Silicon Valley's new residential development approvals over the past decade, the 15 major multifamily projects currently under construction have an average density of 140 du/acre.
  • Across seven of the fifteen developments for which amounts are available, the average starting price is $2,660 for a studio or 1-bedroom apartment. Of the nearly 6,000 units under construction, 189 are affordable to low-income households plus an additional 184 off-site affordable units (for a total of 373 identified as associated with these projects).
  • The number of Silicon Valley multifamily residential units completed in the first half of 2021 represented a significant drop from previous years (726 units, compared to a 2013-2020 average of more than 7,400 annually).
  • Average multifamily unit residential rates throughout the Bay Area in mid-2021 varied between $2,200 for a Studio to as much as $3,600 for a 3-Bedroom/3-Bath. While rental rates for Studios and 1-Bedrooms increased slightly year-over-year (+2% and +1%, respectively), rental rates for larger units declined by 3-5%.
  • Rental rates vary significantly based on building age and class, with the highest rental rates corresponding to Class A/newer developments. Across all sizes from studio to 3-bedrooms, Class A rentals rates are between $420 and $680 more per month than Class C.
  • Average multifamily unit rental rates since 2004 have tracked closely with changes in median household income; however, between 2012 and 2016 these rental rate averages consistently represented more than 30% of median household income (up from 24% in 2004 and 2005).
  • Silicon Valley’s average multifamily occupancy rate—which hovered around 96% between 2016 and Q1 2020, fell several percentage points during the pandemic with only a slight increase in Q2 2021.
  • Multifamily residential developments are spread throughout Silicon Valley, with 73% in Santa Clara County and 27% in San Mateo County. The largest share (40%) of multifamily units in early 2021 were located in the San Jose/Campbell/Milpitas areas, with 13% in Mountain View/Palo Alto/Los Altos, 11% in Sunnyvale/Cupertino, and 9% in Santa Clara.


Read the report


Silicon Valley includes Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties, unless otherwise noted.

For further reference

To access Silicon Valley’s online data hub, visit

About the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies

The Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies is the research arm of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and is housed within the organization. The Institute provides research and analysis on a host of issues facing Silicon Valley’s economy and society. For more information, visit

About Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Established in 1993, Joint Venture provides analysis and action on issues affecting the Silicon Valley economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders—from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community—to spotlight issues, launch projects and work toward innovative solutions. For more information, visit

About CBRE’s Bay Area Multifamily Group

CBRE’s Bay Area Multifamily Group represents institutional and private capital clients. Drawing on extensive relationships and transaction expertise, CBRE provides strategic market exposure and advisory services. For further information, visit the CBRE website.

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