Affordable rentals scarcer than ever in Vail Valley
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Brieanna Gulsvig knew that finding a place to rent in Colorado’s Vail Valley was going to be tough.
After two months of apartment searching, Gulsvig, who works with Beaver Creek sales, said she felt like finding an affordable rental in the valley was “choosing the best of the worst.”
“I started looking early, because I know how hard it is to find something at a reasonable price,” said Gulsvig, who had been living in temporary employee housing.
The maximum rent her budget could handle was $800 a month including utilities, but that proved to be difficult, she said.
“I’d check Craigslist and the Vail Daily every single day. I’d call and all the good ones would be already gone, even if I called the day it was posted,” she said.
She didn’t think she was being picky ” she wanted her own bedroom, a clean place and a safe neighborhood somewhere between Vail and Edwards.
Eventually she found a place in Edwards through a co-worker that was a good fit, and moved in with two people she didn’t know. And she also was worried about the costs, which would get higher with winter heating bills.
“You kind of just have to bite the bullet and spend the money, and it works out in the end,” Gulsvig said. “It’s always a stress on people’s minds around here ” how many jobs do I have to do to support the living situation?”
The situation isn’t uncommon for Eagle County renters as vacancy rates for affordable rentals are hitting record lows, according to housing and real-estate experts.
The vacancy rate for the county’s larger rental properties are about a half percent, said Alex Potente, the county’s housing and development director.
All the affordable rentals, which are mostly municipally sponsored, are completely full and have waiting lists, he said.
Both Lake Creek Village, county-owned apartments in Edwards, and Buffalo Ridge in Avon, have been completely occupied for the last few years, said Mike Komppa, president of Corum Real Estate Group.
The company manages both apartment complexes. When apartments do open up, they are usually filled within a week, Komppa said.
“We’re at about 98 percent occupancy, and you can’t really get much higher than that,” he said. “With the time between tenants moving in and out, it might as well be 100 percent.”
Polarstar Development, which manages part of Buffalo Ridge, Eagle Bend in Avon and Kayak Crossing in Eagle-Vail, also reported similar occupancy rates.
This is a particularly tough time of year to find rental openings, said Gerry Flynn of Polarstar.
“We have a lot of traffic this time of year looking for rentals, and we don’t necessarily have more available at this time,” he said.
Edwards real estate agent Carolyn Swanepoel said that there seem to be rental opportunities, but what would be considered “affordable” is in short supply.
“I’m not seeing that much,” she said. “And the rent for what is available is well beyond the affordable level.”
Swanepoel said she predicts that as real estate sale prices go up, rent prices may follow.
“Because of higher real estate taxes on rental properties and just higher property costs, that’s what landlords have to do,” she said.
Lisa Kraft found herself in such a situation when her landlord raised the rent on her Avon townhouse by $100 a month. Unable to afford the increase, Kraft, a GIS Specialist for an architecture firm, started looking for a one-bedroom place within her budget of about $700 per month ” something she soon found nearly impossible.
The going rate seemed to be $900 to $1,000 a month, or if the rates were lower, it didn’t include utilities, she said.
“I looked for a month, in the paper and on Craigslist,” she said. “I have a pet, and that was so difficult.”
The area’s affordable rentals either were filled, or her income was too high to meet the requirements, such as at Lake Creek Village, she said.
“That’s the thing, I didn’t qualify ” I make too much,” she said. “But on the other hand I’ll never be able to afford (to buy) anything up here as long as it’s with one income.”
Finally, through a friend, she found a Brett Ranch condo for rent with two other roommates.
Still, the move will have its costs.
“It will double my gas budget, and I’m thinking about taking the bus,” said Kraft, who works in Avon.
Affordable rentals have always been scarce in the county, Potente said ” and it is difficult for developers to make money on projects where rent is capped.
Developers of the biggest apartment projects in the county agree that affordable rentals don’t work without help from governments and businesses.
The land for Buffalo Ridge was already set aside for affordable housing, for example. Lake Creek was a financial partnership between governments and businesses.
“Back when we built Lake Creek, we couldn’t get anyone to believe that it would stay full 12 months a year,” Komppa said. “We worked with Eagle County and Vail Resorts and other major employers to support the financing.”
Flynn agreed, saying that the area’s two most recent rental projects, Buffalo Ridge and Middle Creek in Vail, were difficult to finance and would not have succeeded without significant subsidies.
Flynn’s projects were built with government tax-exempt bonds, and others were built with tax credits.
“Today it just gets harder and harder,” Komppa said. “You can’t go out and buy land at a market rate and build at current construction prices. You need some help from somewhere.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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