Understanding Shelter Inflation and Its Impact on Real Estate and Housing Affordability

Shelter inflation has been a significant factor contributing to the overall inflationary pressures in the U.S. economy.  Shelter inflation encompasses both rent and utility payments for renters and the estimated rental cost of similar houses for homeowners.  Notably, shelter accounts for nearly a third of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation basket, and 40% of the core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy components​​.  The importance of shelter in the overall inflation picture cannot be understated, especially considering its direct effects on household wealth and neighborhood affordability​​.

Current Trends and Predictions

Shelter inflation has remained stubbornly high, even as other components of inflation have shown signs of cooling down.  One of the driving factors behind this trend has been the extraordinary growth in house prices and asking rents that started in early 2020 and continued until recently.  However, as interest rates have risen, there’s been a significant slowdown in the housing market, which is expected to influence the path of shelter inflation in the future​​.

Forecasting models combining various market indicators suggest that shelter inflation is likely to slow significantly over the next 18 months.  This slowdown is consistent with the evolving effects of interest rate hikes on housing markets​​.  Despite the high level of shelter inflation, which has exceeded 8% since early 2023, there’s an anticipation of a considerable decrease, with potential implications for the overall economic inflation​​.

Measuring and Forecasting Shelter Inflation

The CPI shelter inflation index aims to measure changes in consumer spending on the full spectrum of housing services.  This includes households who have recently moved and are paying the current asking rent, as well as those who haven’t moved recently and are paying different rent amounts.  As a result, shifts in asking rents are gradually incorporated into the total rents over time.  Indexes of asking rents can thus provide insights about the future path of shelter inflation​​.

However, extrapolating the path of shelter inflation directly from asking-rent indexes is complex, though they are theoretically and historically connected.  Recent research has shown that asking rents can be quite informative for forecasting the path of shelter inflation​​.

A dynamic statistical model has been developed to forecast cumulative core-based statistical area (CBSA) shelter inflation over the next 18 months.  This model evaluates the evolving cost of shelter based on monthly data from various housing market indicators, including the Zillow Home Value Index and CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index​​.  The disaggregated approach using CBSA-level data provides more statistical precision than an aggregate model of shelter inflation​​.

Implications and Caveats

The baseline forecast suggests that year-over-year shelter inflation will continue to slow through late 2024, potentially even turning negative by mid-2024.  This represents a significant change in the trend of shelter inflation​​.  However, there are important caveats to these forecasts.  The range of possible forecast errors is quite wide, reflecting significant uncertainty.  Additionally, these models are primarily based on data from the pandemic period, which saw exceptional growth in housing markets and inflation.  The relationship between housing market indicators and shelter inflation could therefore be different going forward​​​​.

Moreover, these forecasts do not account for any potential future economic shocks.  Important changes in the economy could cause housing market inflation to accelerate or decelerate, and the forecast cannot predict those changes​​.


As policymakers and market participants navigate through these uncertain times, understanding the dynamics of shelter inflation becomes crucial.  It’s not just a matter of tracking housing costs but also understanding how these costs influence the broader economy.  The potential slowdown in shelter inflation suggests a changing landscape for real estate and housing affordability.  Yet, the inherent unpredictability of economic factors means that real estate professionals, homeowners, and investors must remain vigilant and adaptable to the evolving market conditions.


The information provided in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice.  Title Mark does not offer financial advisory services.  We recommend consulting with a qualified financial advisor for advice tailored to your individual circumstances.