Vacancy, rental rates down in Grand Junction

Grand Junction’s rental apartment vacancy rate dipped to its lowest point in 15 months in the fourth quarter of 2013, falling to 6.7 percent, according to a recent report from the Colorado Division of Housing.

The portion of Grand Junction apartments available for rent dropped three percentage points year over year in the fourth quarter and shrank by 1.1 percentage points quarter over quarter.

While Grand Junction’s economy has some catching up to do compared to northern Colorado cities, Colorado Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said some recovery in local employment likely contributed to the lowered vacancy rate. Mesa County’s unemployment rate went from 8.8 percent in December 2012 to 7 percent in December 2013, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Still, Grand Junction has a vacancy rate well above Fort Collins, Denver and Boulder — cities that rebounded sooner than western and southern Colorado cities from the recession. McMaken said that would explain why vacancy rates among Grand Junction apartments varied wildly from 4.3 percent for one-bedroom, likely less expensive apartments to 17.4 percent for three-bedroom multifamily housing.

“That suggests certain flight to affordability. That would make sense when job gains are somewhat muted,” McMaken said.

The average cost to rent an apartment in the city dipped as well, falling by $98 year over year to $561 in the final quarter of 2013. Rental rates stayed in the $500 to $599 range throughout 2013, while the average Grand Junction rent was between $600 and $699 throughout 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. McMaken said current rental prices are closer to 2005 and 2006 rental rates, before rents surged in a low-vacancy market.

“The reality is those rent levels are really just getting back to historical norms,” McMaken said.


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