WILSONVILLE, Ore. (WILSONVILLE SPOKESMAN) — When Samantha Andrews, 31, moved to Wilsonville in 2011 to be nearer to her job, the choice made sense from both a financial and practical standpoint.
She found a three-bedroom apartment at Berkshire Court for $1,000 that she shared with a friend. After a year, Andrews moved out on her own and downsized to a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at Sundial Apartments for $900 a month in 2012.
But throughout the Portland metro area, rent increases have been hitting multifamily-dwelling residents particularly hard in recent years. Management at apartment complexes largely cite a hot housing market for the trend and industry analysts typically agree, saying that the housing supply falls short of resident demand for space, allowing prices to rise or even skyrocket in some metro pockets.
One of the areas experiencing this climb in rent rates is Wilsonville.
An increase of nearly 100 percent in the last five years following each lease renewal has pushed Andrews’ monthly rent up to $1,800 and her financial situation to the brink.
“Me and my fiancé together struggle to make things come together, because when you add in electricity, internet, your cell phone and a car payment, you have nothing left,” Andrews says, adding that despite having multiple incomes in her home, after being between jobs for a couple of months she almost couldn’t keep the apartment. “I had to use my entire 401k to keep us afloat.”
According to Clackamas County Assessments & Taxation Assessor Bob Vroman, a potent combination of market pressures has resulted in the current increases and heating market.
During the 2008 recession, Vroman says that that new construction projects throughout the region typically ground to a halt, with few exceptions. But between 2008 and 2017, in-migration from other states and more rural areas has created an imbalance where there is more demand for housing than there is inventory available. For those with budget limitations, these pressures can be crushing.
“The dynamics of the housing market have changed during these recovery years because of those factors,” Vroman says.
According to apartment appraisal specialist Mark D. Barry of Barry & Associates, aside from market pressures, Wilsonville is unique compared to its suburban neighbors because of its optimal position on Interstate 5 between Portland and Salem and close proximity to industrial employers. This combination has attracted many large investment development firms over the years that built a number of complexes with 100-plus units that are run by equally large management companies.
But even for those who may be more willing or able to pay a higher premium for an apartment, pickings are sparse because of the influx to the market.
When Mike McCarty, native to and longtime resident of California, came to Wilsonville February of 2017 to become the new Wilsonville Parks and Recreation director, he was shocked by the prices and lack of availability of units on the market.
“They told me that it was a 2 percent vacancy rate for renters (in Wilsonville),” McCarty says. “And with my dog, they told me that it was .5 percent.”
Even after securing something, McCarty said that the unit was both larger and more expensive than he wanted, but after having already lost one unit after taking time to think it over, he wasn’t going to take any more chances.
“It’s a hot market for sure,” he says. “I just got really fortunate that something fell into my lap, but again, moving in, I had to take it sight-unseen because it was probably going to be the only chance I got.”
Looking at countywide rent rates over the past three years collected by Clackamas County and compiled in its annual, countywide rent studies, in 2013 median quality, one-bedroom apartments went for $675. Those same apartments jumped to renting for $825 in 2014 and $950 in 2015.
“Although it’s a generalization, we probably haven’t seen the same level of increase that you see closer in to the Portland metropolitan core area, because we’re still a suburban market, so we probably saw those significant increases start a little bit later and begin to certainly increase,” Vroman says.
Although numbers are still coming in from the final quarter of 2016, Vroman estimates that the initial numbers are tracking very closely to Portland numbers, with rents increasing in the 8-11 percent ballpark for 2016.
According to Clackamas County Appraisal Supervisor Lynn Longfellow, the market isn’t looking like it it’s going to start cooling down anytime soon.
“People are still coming here,” Longfellow says. “Our unemployment rate is low so people are employed… but the pressure on the rental market is really, really hard.”
For renters like Andrews, these market pressures are inescapable and she says that they’re “the reality that we’re in right now.” But she also admits that this knowledge doesn’t make the situation any less bitter a pill to swallow.
“At the very least, people should know what they are getting into before they make the choice to begin a life in Wilsonville,” Andrews says. “Had I known this would happen, I might have started my life somewhere else but now I’m rooted in this community and would be very lost if, and probably when, I have to leave it.”
The Wilsonville Spokesman is a KOIN media partner.