For people looking to rent a home or apartment in Bend, the first hurdle is just getting a foot in the door. All across the city, rental homes are getting snatched up faster than ever, and the demand is causing price hikes.

“It is crazy right now, much like the housing market,” said Lisa Berg, owner of Mt. Bachelor Property Management. “We will post properties for rent and within an hour will have received multiple applications.”

Multiple factors are contributing to the surge in rental interest and prices in Bend. In part, it’s due to pandemic rental assistance that is keeping renters in their homes, which prevents units from opening up. But the greater factor has been the tidal wave of newcomers arriving from other parts of the country.

Medium-sized rural towns like Bend have become a Mecca for remote workers who no longer need to be tied down to the big city and its high cost of living and crowded conditions. Many of those newcomers have bought property, but those who couldn’t close a deal quickly, or just wanted to stay flexible until the pandemic subsides, are now renting.

Berg said more than half of her new tenants are relocating to Central Oregon from out of the area and many are remote workers. All those new arrivals have put historic high pressure on the housing market.

Apartment rentals are typically leased up within a couple of days after listing, said Berg, and the vacancy rate within her company is 1%.

“Prior to the pandemic, the rental market was still tight, and properties would be rented within a week or two,” said Berg. “However, I have been managing rentals in Central Oregon for over 10 years and this is by far the most insane I have ever seen it.”

According to Zumper, an apartment listing website, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bend is $1,885, a 33% increase compared to a year ago. That price makes Bend just as expensive as Seattle, where a two-bedroom apartment will set you back, on average, $1,995 a month.

Melissa Gottlieb, owner of Bend Relocation Services said the surge in demand is fueling price increases.

“The supply is incredibly low compared to the demand, giving homeowners a huge advantage,” said Gottlieb. “The average three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family home is $2,800 compared to $2,300 a year ago and $2,000 two years ago.”

The huge demand for housing is allowing homeowners to be pickier when it comes to selecting a renter, and many are opting for those without pets.

“Finding a rental that will accept a cat is becoming a rarity and for a city known for having a very strong dog-friendly community, securing a rental with a dog is also becoming increasingly more difficult,” said Gottlieb.

Berg said the hot housing market has forced some landlords to cash in on their rental properties. When that happens it just results in more people forced back into the pool of renters needing housing.

“We try and relocate them to our other properties if we can but it doesn’t always work out,” said Berg.

The city of Bend is working to alleviate the stress of the housing market by creating affordable housing options. The development of these projects can be one or two years in the making, but some are already coming online.

“I can see the projects growing up out of the ground. Part of it is shock; part of it is relief,” said Mayor Sally Russell.

In February, the Bend City Council approved $1.3 million in funding for the construction of 400 new affordable housing units. Russell said the situation improves day by day as construction companies work furiously to build more units.

“The situation is improving every day; people need to understand that,” said Russell. “There is so much inventory that is on the verge of coming online in the city of Bend now.”

Reporter: 541-617-7818,

mkohn@bendbulletin.com

(1) comment

Dan Evans

Despite the best of intentions behind current affordable housing policies in Bend and Deschutes county - which essentially boil down to trying to build enough units to meet demand - the numbers simply will not add up.

It's like putting a lawn sprinkler in the desert.

"The greater factor (impacting local housing costs) has been the tidal wave of newcomers arriving from other parts of the country."

"(Property manager) Berg said more than half of her new tenants are relocating to Central Oregon from out of the area. All those new arrivals have put historic high pressure on the housing market."

As one of the fastest growing areas in the United States - which itself has an estimated housing shortage of close to 4 million units - Deschutes county cannot simply build enough new homes and apartments to meet demand.

Until affordable housing policies are revamped to focus on providing homes for existing residents first (limiting demand) - which will require modifying fair housing laws - working-wage Central Oregonians will continue to face an insurmountable shortage of housing, resulting in higher rents and home prices.

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