The fast-growing city of Prineville has had rock-bottom rental vacancy rates in recent years due to a lack of available apartments. But a Salem construction company is building a 135-unit apartment complex in the city’s north end, which city leaders say will help relieve the city’s housing issues.

“I think the timing of this is excellent, and I expect the 135 units to get filled up fairly quickly,” said Steve Forrester, Prineville’s city manager.

The units will be a mix of two- and three-bedroom apartments, split among 10 different buildings, according to a press release from Harrison Industries, the construction company building the complex. The apartments will be built on Colleen Road, according to Hanna Lindstedt, marketing specialist from Norris & Stevens, Inc., a Portland-based real estate brokerage firm that will handle leasing for the apartments.

Lindstedt said rent prices have yet to be determined, but the size of the apartments will range from 1,005 square feet to 1,139 square feet.

The complex, named Wild Horse Mesa Apartments, will also have a club­room, pool and two recreational areas on its 6.2-acre property, according to a press release. Construction has started on Wild Horse Mesa, and it will likely be ready for tenants in the fall of 2020, with preleasing starting that July, the release stated.

Prineville’s population has grown in recent years, thanks to multiple construction projects throughout the city and the opening of a Facebook data center. The city’s population — currently estimated at 10,329 — has grown by more than 11.5% since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The region’s schools have also become crowded — Crook County School District’s enrollment grew by 6.5% since October 2018, according to the school district.

The overall vacancy rate in Prineville was 1.5% in May 2016 — a steep drop from a 12.4% vacancy rate in 2009, according to the most recent survey from the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association. Prineville Mayor Steve Uffelman said the city’s rental vacancy recently dipped to about 0.5%, although it had improved slightly since then.

Uffelman said it’s been difficult in the past to get local builders to construct housing in Prineville, as developers can make larger profits in more expensive cities nearby.

“One of the issues that we’ve struggled with is, if you’re going to build in Prineville or Redmond or Bend, you’re going to use the same contractors, materials, suppliers, construction people,” he said. “Where’s the most profitable place to build? It’s going to be Bend.”

Uffelman said adding housing is a priority for Prineville.

“We have additional jobs that we didn’t have before; we have a significant increase in the school population,” he said. “All in all, we need housing.”

Forrester, the city manager, said he believed the apartments should serve the growing middle-class population in Prineville.

“We had full saturation of high-density homes for folks who had reasonably good jobs,” he said. “(The new apartments) are filling a gap for people who are working, not yet willing to purchase a home, but need a good place to live.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854,