Housing vacancy rate drops to 7.9 percent

Occupancy of GJ rentals rising since 13.2 percent vacancy in '09

Grand Junction’s rental housing vacancy rate decreased by one percentage point between the second and third quarters of the year, landing at 7.9 percent in September, according to data released Thursday by the Colorado Division of Housing.

The rate has fallen since peaking at 13.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. But experts predict the downward trend is not here to stay.

The fourth and first quarters are usually the slowest of the year as people settle in for a school year or avoid moving when it’s cold and snowy, according to Gordon E. Von Stroh, author of the vacancy report. Steady unemployment in Grand Junction isn’t likely to move the number of renters up, either, and Property Manager Cindy Hoppe of Bray Property Management predicts more renters will vacate apartments to live with family members if unemployment benefits are not extended by the end of the year. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 2 million people will lose unemployment insurance in December if benefits are not extended.

“These are people that the minute that benefit falls out, there is no savings. (Unemployment benefits are) how they’re paying their rent,” Hoppe said.

There is some good news associated with the report. Von Stroh said Grand Junction remains a hot spot for retirees, which may explain why the vacancy rate decreased without a downward push in unemployment, two rates that are commonly codependent.

Hoppe said there isn’t a surge of new renters in town, but Bray signed nearly 100 new leases in the third quarter, plus 25 in October and 37 in November. Many of those new leases were signed by people moving in from outside the area.

Average cost to rent was $21.10 higher than the second quarter, but at $655.58 it was down $18.73 compared to the third quarter last year.

Where those rents and the vacancy rate will land by this time next year will depend on the economy, Von Stroh said.

“The key thing that will determine what happens to the Western Slope is unemployment,” he said.


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