Renters paying the price for apartment shortage

AUSTIN -- New apartment complexes are being built across Austin, but it is still not enough supply to meet the demand -- and the proof is in the occupancy rate.

"We're still sitting about 96 percent, which is just down from a little bit over 97, so it's still a very strong market for the landlords, and it's definitely not a renter's market," said Natalie Young, manager of A Plus Apartment Locators.

Young said a "healthy" occupancy rate is 92 percent. The result of exceeding that percentage is expensive rent.

"Our prices have continued to climb, really, since about 2009," said Young.

For people moving to Austin, rental rates may not seem so bad.

"Coming from California, I thought they were cheap," said Tyler Morgan, who moved to Austin in 2012. "But you know, I heard this is was the most expensive place in Texas."

The current rates are not the prices to which Austinites are accustomed. The market is charging an average of $1.15 per square foot. A one-bedroom apartment that is considered "affordable" costs about $700 a month, but Young said those apartments tend to be on the outskirts of town. A one-bedroom apartment downtown costs at least $1,400 to $1,500 a month, and the new units opening all over Austin and even in nearby cities cost nearly just as much.

"It's very expensive," said Austin resident Kati Kieffer. "So as a single mother, works for the State of Texas, you really just don't have the finances to be able to afford an apartment like that. It's actually easier, and better when the market dips a little bit, to buy a home."

But buying a home in the Capitol City comes with its own complications.

"The price of homes are continuing to climb, and a house will go on the market on a Thursday and be under contract on Saturday with several offers on the table. So what it does is it really it keeps a lot of people in apartments longer than they would like to be," Young said.

Apartment renters aren't the only ones paying more. According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median price to lease a home in November was $1,420 a month, about 10 percent higher than four years ago.


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