Durango rental vacancies at 6.1 percent

Statewide average at 9.1 percent, a significant increase from 2008

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The number of vacant rental properties in Durango has risen slightly since last year, according to a new survey by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Gordon Von Stroh, business professor at the University of Denver, author of the agency's Colorado Multi-Family Vacancy and Rental Survey, reported statewide rental vacancy for the first quarter of 2009 increased to 9.1 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 2008.

In the Durango market, vacancy increased from 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2008 to 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Vacancy in Durango was 1.6 percent higher in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the first quarter of 2008, when vacancy was 4.5 percent.

Average rent in Durango stayed almost put, declining from $833.01 to $829.31 since the third quarter of 2008. But since the first quarter of 2008, monthly rent in Durango has increased about $35.

According to the study, the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Durango is $726.28, $959.79 for two bedrooms, one bath, and $954.87 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The department collects statistics for the Durango area only in the first and third quarters. Survey results for the first quarter of 2009 were released Tuesday, more than five months after the first quarter ended.

Vacancy in Durango has topped 6.1 percent several times since the department began collecting the numbers. In the first quarter of 2003, vacancy was recorded at 8.5 percent; in the first quarter of 2006, it was 7.7 percent.

The highest vacancy rates in the state in 2009 are in cities on the Front Range, with 9.9 percent in Fort Collins and 9.8 percent in Colorado Springs. In Durango and statewide, older buildings were showing higher vacancy rates.

Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, speculated the rise in vacancy was spurred by several factors - a slowdown in the building industry, sellers who have grown tired of a sluggish housing market deciding to recoup some of their mortgage costs by temporarily renting their properties, the addition of new student housing in Animas Hall at Fort Lewis College and changes in Americans' spending behavior.

Julie Levy, of the Regional Housing Alliance, said many potential renters also may have been enticed to purchase homes because of lower prices and new programs such as RHA's mortgage assistance.

Local real estate consultant Bob Allen said a report released five months after the data was collected does not shed much light on conditions in the current economy.

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