RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Renters are probably paying more for their current apartment than they did the last time they signed a lease.

But how much more? And should that be a political issue?

Congressman-elect Wiley Nickel made a strong claim in a recent interview with CBS 17 News about how quickly and how drastically apartment rates have climbed.

THE CLAIM: Speaking about housing in the Triangle, Nickel said “rental prices have gone up 50 percent in the last year.”

THE FACTS: Abby May, Nickel’s campaign manager, said that number came from a story in The News & Observer, which cited figures from Rent (formerly rent.com).

The website publishes a breakdown of rent trends each month, and its publication from July showed a two-bedroom apartment in Durham was 51.3 percent more expensive in 2022 than last year. One in Raleigh was 48.9 percent more expensive over the same time frame.

But Yongqiang Chu, a real estate expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Childress Klein Center for Real Estate, says he’s skeptical of those numbers from Rent.

He says his research for Raleigh shows a year-over-year increase of roughly 20 percent in the third and fourth quarters of 2021 into early 2022, and the most recent figures from the third quarter of 2022 showed prices up 5 percent from the same quarter last year — an increase, certainly, but not nearly as drastic as Rent claimed.

“I’ve never seen year-over-year rental growth as high as 50 percent,” Chu said. “It’s never happened before.”

With tech giants Apple and Google among the high-profile companies planning to bring massive operations to the Triangle in the coming years, Nickel also called Raleigh “the second-fastest growing area in the country behind Austin.”

That claim checks out: A report from Carolina Demography at the University of North Carolina finds Raleigh’s population grew by 23 percent since 2010, second only to Austin, Texas (29.8 percent).

The Congressman-elect says housing is a priority for his district, which covers parts of Raleigh and southern Wake County along with all of Johnston County and parts of Wayne and Harnett counties.

But how can lawmakers solve an issue that appears to be driven by the simple forces of supply and demand?

“The supply has been struggling to catch up with the demand,” Chu said. “There’s not much we can or should do about demand, unless you tell people ‘Just do not try to live in the target space.’ That just doesn’t happen. So the only thing you can do to alleviate this is to increase supply. So to that front, there is actually a lot that can be done.”

Nickel points to a need for more affordable starter homes.

“That’s bringing up the cost of housing for everybody,” Nickel said. “So we need to focus on the local level on … making it much easier for first-time homebuyers. And making it more affordable with specific senior communities, for folks, you know, towards the end of their life. Those are things that I think will help a lot.”

But is Congress the legislative body to get them done?

The zoning laws and regulations on builders that appear to be the main things holding them back are almost by definition local.

“Most of these are local issues, although housing affordability becomes a national issue because in most places the regulatory framework is kind of similar,” Chu said.

Yet there are some things that can be accomplished in Washington.

Retiring U.S. Rep. David Price, for example, chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and has pushed for reforms.

Other lawmakers are targeting corporate landlords, whose shareholders might pressure them to aggressively raise rents, with the Stop Wall Street Landlords Act.