9 Investigates: Rising rent costs in Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — It's a trend that experts began tracking last year nationwide -- rent costs are rising and affordable rental options are dwindling.

9 Investigates learned that rent prices in the Orlando area are an average of $1,200 monthly, $100 more than they were in January 2017.

Construction of apartment buildings in downtown Orlando is booming, but much of the construction are high-end.

The lowest price for a one-bedroom apartment at Modera Central, which is being built on East Central Boulevard near South Rosalind Avenue, is almost $1,700, which increased in price by $40 in the last two months.

Renter King Solomon Manago said living in downtown isn't an option for him.

"I'd almost have to pay -- work two jobs, so that was ridiculous," he said. "You might as well pay a mortgage, might as well buy a house for that (price)."

Manago also said he misses his native Orlando from which he had to move 30 miles because of rental costs.

"It is a crisis," Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, said. "We have such a gap between the number of people moving to the area and the housing that we can build, and it's just not getting better."

Despite a 2½ percent projected population increase in Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford, the amount of available "non-luxury" rentals is expected to drop by almost 50 percent.

More people and fewer options drive up rent prices.

Nimkoff said many tradesmen and builders who moved away after the housing crash in 2007 haven't returned. Many of those who stayed in the area rely on the sure bet of high-end construction.

He said some cities, such as Orlando, have relaxed restrictions on accessory dwellings, also known as mother-in-law suites, providing a much-needed boost in rental options.

"We unfortunately don't see that changing significantly," Nimkoff said of the shortage of affordable rental options.

Experts said renters set on living in a particular neighborhood might want to consider living with a roommate.

They said renters might also want to consider searching for a property that includes fewer on-site amenities, because a buying a membership to an off-site gym could lower rent costs.

See below for help finding an apartment within a particular price range and to read the qualifications for receiving assistance.