If you have looked for an apartment or house to rent in SE Portland lately, you have undoubtedly discovered one thing: you are not alone in looking for an apartment or house to rent in SE Portland.
Rental vacancy rates in our city – and especially in many neighborhoods in our coalition – remain at historic lows. In the second quarter of this year citywide vacancy rates were at 2.04%. What this means is individuals and families looking for a place to rent are often competing with dozens or more other applicants for the rare available apartment or house.
As your high school economics teacher would tell you, when there is more demand for something than there is supply, the price of that something is bound to go up. And that is exactly what is happening to rental prices, which are on average 4% higher than they were at this time last year.
The low vacancy rates, along with improved lending conditions and an improved economy in general, has led to an apartment construction boom, especially in our inner SE Portland neighborhoods. Citywide there are about 5,000 apartment units under construction and another 10,000 apartment units proposed. These range from buildings with a couple dozen units to tall towers that will house hundreds.
The addition of new apartments should eventually make the search for a rental unit a little less competitive, but will it make things any more affordable? The jury is still out on that question.
A recent study by the Portland Housing Bureau took a look at housing affordability in the city and found that a family of four earning 60% of the median family income ($41,625 a year or $20/hr) cannot afford to purchase a house in the vast majority of Portland. A family of four earning 30% of the median family income ($20,800 a year or $10/hr) cannot afford to buy or rent anywhere in the city.
These numbers, as well as a recent gentrification study conducted by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, confirm trends that we have seen in the SE Uplift Coalition area over the past couple of decades. Our neighborhoods are continuing to become less affordable and we are continuing to see many of our lower-income individuals and families being priced out.
Bob Kellett is the Neighborhood Planning Program Manager for SE Uplift. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 232-0010 ext. 314.