Hundreds of Avon-area residents see rent hikes | VailDaily.com

Hundreds of Avon-area residents see rent hikes

EAGLE COUNTY — Residents of 412 apartments in and near Avon received unexpected news last month: their rent is going up.

Polar Star Properties, which manages the Eagle Bend and Buffalo Ridge apartments in Avon and the Kayak Crossing apartments in Eagle-Vail, informed residents in June that rent would increase an average of 3.2 percent — with a notable exception. The rent increase at those apartments is the first since 2008. Polar Star owner Gerry Flynn said the increase was needed due to rising costs of operations and maintenance.

But first, the exception: rent will remain at current rates for tenants who work in the town of Avon. Flynn said about half of the tenants in the three complexes meet that condition.

In a release about the increase, Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger wrote that the town helped finance Eagle Bend and Buffalo Ridge, although not directly. The town was able to help developers obtain tax-exempt financing and other mechanisms to keep costs down.

In an interview, Flynn said he understands that higher rent will put pressure on wages, and that wages haven't kept pace with inflation over the past several years.

"It's been a tough eight years," Flynn said.

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While the three complexes are generally full, there were a number of vacancies in the depth of the valley's economic slump in 2010 and 2011. That led Polar Star to offer some rent concessions to tenants, usually consisting of one-month relief on a 12-month lease. That program didn't last long.

"We've been full for three years," Flynn said, "and in the spring of 2014 we started to see a severe shortage."

Flynn, who has been with Polar Star since the Eagle Bend apartments were built in 1991, recalled that the housing shortage was a crisis then, too.

"It's only let up one time since then," Flynn said.

In late 2015, Vail Daily reporter Melanie Wong surveyed the number of classified ads for rentals in the valley and how long those ads stayed in the paper.

For a two-bedroom unit in the upper valley, the number of ads peaked at 298 in 2010 and spent an average of 16.5 days in the paper. That number dropped in 2015 to 46 ads, which were published an average of 12.3 days.

Rent went up during that period, too. The average two-bedroom unit in the upper valley rented for $1,495 per month in 2010. By 2015, that average rate had risen to $2,138.

Those numbers are for private-sector rentals, which are difficult to track. But the big apartment complexes in the valley all have some level of public sponsorship.

Eagle County owns and manages four properties: the Lake Creek Village apartments, the Riverview apartments — the county's only complex that meets federal low-income guidelines — and the Golden Eagle and Seniors on Broadway units in Eagle.

According to Tori Franks, of the Eagle County Housing Department, the county has managed those properties since 2014. There haven't been any rent increases at those apartments, and, Franks wrote, county officials don't anticipate increases in the foreseeable future.

Corum Real Estate Group manages Buffalo Ridge Phase 2 — the bulk of the apartments there — as well as the Timber Ridge and Lions Ridge apartments in Vail.

Cicely Crampton, of Corum, said that company manages 132 "affordable" units at Buffalo Ridge. Rents are tied to income in those units. The company also manages 44 free-market units at Buffalo Ridge. Crampton said the free-market apartments at Buffalo Ridge saw an average rent increase of 4.5 percent last year. The income-restricted units saw increases around 1 percent.

The town of Vail owns the Timber Ridge apartments and must approve any rent increases. Crampton said the council approved a 3 percent increase for 2016. Corum is likely to ask for another small increase for 2017.

With the existing inventory full, there's currently a lot of discussion of trying to build more housing. Eagle County is likely to ask voters this fall for a sales tax increase to create a permanent housing fund. Vail officials are working on a draft of a housing plan, and the Vail Town Council may be asked to create a permanent housing fund there.

Flynn said those ideas are encouraging, since creating housing ultimately comes down to the cost of building it.

Construction costs have risen to the point that a project similar to Eagle Bend couldn't qualify for federal programs today, Flynn said.

"You have to find the right piece of land at the right price," Flynn said. "We've got to find the right motivated stakeholders to make it happen."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

By the numbers

412: Apartments at Eagle Bend, Buffalo Ridge Phase 1 and Kayak Crossing apartment complexes.

3.2 percent: Average rent increase.

8 years: Time since rent has increased at the complexes.

98 percent: Occupancy at the complexes.

Source: Polar Star Properties.