The vacancy rate for rental property in Bend in April was 2.4 percent for a house and 0.8 percent for a duplex, according to the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association annual survey. Between 1.4 percent and 1.6 percent of all Bend apartments surveyed, about 400, were available to rent.
That number’s expected to change in the coming year. After a long drought, a flood of apartment construction is starting to flow in Bend. Financial constraints that kept builders away from the multifamily market have improved to the point that building apartments, particularly, may turn a profit.
In all, more than 1,000 units of multifamily housing, meaning apartments and townhouses destined for the rental market, are in various phases of development in Bend, according to the city Community Development Department. Some builders are in early discussions with city planners, some have building permits under review and two projects are under construction. The projects range from government-subsidized public housing to high-end market-rate apartments.
Projects in the city include Boulder Pointe, at NE Boyd Acres Road and NE Ross Road, where big yellow excavators are moving soil and rock to prepare the building site. That project calls for 96 apartments on 4.7 acres. It’s adjacent to the one recently built apartment project in Bend, the 104-unit Sage Springs. That complex was fully leased before builders finished it last year.
In NorthWest Crossing, a Portland development firm plans to build 132 apartments in six, three-story buildings on Discovery Park Drive, NW Crossing Drive and NW Clearwater Drive. Those plans are in the first phase of city review. NorthWest Crossing General Manager David Ford said Thursday that THA Architecture, of Portland, which drew up the plans for the Downtown Bend Public Library and the High Desert Museum, is designing the complex.
Across town, developer PacWest II is in the planning stage of a 136-unit apartment complex on Empire Avenue. And a Seattle development firm is planning 208 units at the foot of Pilot Butte on NE Linnea Drive. That developer, Evergreen Housing Development Group, describes the project as “high-end, professionally managed” and designed to attract clients who rent by choice.
Rents have risen to a point where developers can profit from building apartment complexes. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bend has increased from an average $629 in 2012 to $847 this year, according to the Central Oregon Rental Association surveys. That’s a rise of nearly 35 percent. Average rent for a three-bedroom house went up more than 55 percent in the same period, from $871 to $1,354, according to survey data.
Employment is also a key indicator, Brand and others said. Not only has Bend recovered most of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, but it’s also moved into growth territory, according to the Oregon Employment Department. The unemployment rate in Deschutes County dropped to 5.6 percent in April, its lowest point since November 2007, according to the department.
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