Apartments scarce, pricey

Survey: Local vacancy is 2.6 percent

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— Rental apartments in Steamboat Springs are scarce, and people who manage to locate one will find they have to pay about $40 more per month than the average for the state of Colorado.

A survey released by the Colorado Division of Housing this week shows that the vacancy rate for local apartments rose slightly during the first quarter of 2001 to 2.6 percent, compared to 1.3 percent during the third quarter of 2000. Just seven apartments were available for rent here when the survey was taken.

"I would have to tell you I don't think that signifies a trend," said Bill Whaley. He is with the state Department of Local Affairs office in Grand Junction. "The third quarter vacancy rate of 1.3 percent is almost nothing and 2.6 percent is still very small. A stable market is considered to have a 5 percent vacancy number."

The average monthly rent for apartments here rose to $794.59 from $767 at the time of the last survey's release at the end of September. The statewide average, which includes apartments of all sizes, is $753, up from $718 last fall.

The data for Steamboat shows that of 273 apartments surveyed last quarter, just seven were available. The survey did not include any rent-controlled apartments, and thus, the 24 rent-controlled units at Mountain Village Apartments on Whistler Road are not reflected. The terms of a low-cost federal loan place maximum income requirements on the renters of two out of every eight units at Mountain Village. About a dozen of those units are vacant because the landlord has been unable to find enough households earning lower than the maximum.

The third quarter of 2000 marked the first time Steamboat was included in the state survey, so there is no historical data for the community, Whaley said. He is planning to meet with local government leaders and members of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation here later this week to discuss the results, he added.

The state survey, because it is conducted in the first and third quarters, doesn't reflect the availability of rental housing in Steamboat during the summers. Curt Weiss of Central Park Management controls about 300 rental units in Routt County, and he says there are only about two months of the year when he has no units available.

Many of his units at Walton Pond Apartments, on Steamboat's south side, are committed to employees of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Although they aren't available for a long-term lease, the apartments are rented by Weiss' firm on a month-to-month basis during the spring, summer and fall.

Although Steamboat rental rates are about $40 above the state average, there are a number of locations around the Western Slope where rents are significantly lower.

The average monthly rent in Grand Junction declined to $482 early this year. Rents in Gunnison slid from $526 last fall all the way to $344 during the first quarter.

The most expensive apartment rent on the Western Slope isn't in Aspen, but in Eagle County $1,000 a month. Those rates are driven by a vacancy rate of 0.1 percent.

Other communities and their vacancy rates include: Greeley, 1.7 percent; Durango, 2.9 percent, Salida, 0 percent; and Glenwood Springs, where only four of 337 apartments surveyed are vacant, or 1.2 percent.

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