Finding an apartment to rent in the Tri-Cities is tough, as most of the area's 12,000 units are occupied despite a steady increase in rental rates.
The apartment occupancy rate is 99 percent for Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, according to the latest Apartment Rental Survey by Kennewick's Crown Property Management
Average monthly rental rates for apartments -- mostly one- to three-bedroom units -- ranged from about $635 to about $950 in Kennewick, from about $660 to $850 in Pasco, and from $780 to $999 in Richland, the survey found.
Apartment occupancy is rising steadily across the nation, said Brock MacLean, senior vice president of national sales and development for Norfolk, Va.-based For Rent Media Solutions. His company's website, ForRent. com, saw a 65 percent increase in traffic in August, he said.
About 35 Tri-City apartment complexes, typically offering 100 units or more, are listed on the company's website and magazine, MacLean said. Their occupancy rate is 94.7 percent, he said.
Occupancy rates have remained high because of temporary workers, many of whom work at Hanford, said Glenn Crellin, director of the WSU Center for Real Estate Research. It's possible many of the workers found it hard to sell their old homes and preferred to rent for a while, he said.
Talk of a possible decline in Hanford employment doesn't worry Linda Henjum, vice president/broker at Pinnacle American Management Services in Richland. Her company, which provides real estate management and brokerage services, relies on the occupancy survey for planning, she said.
"There are plenty of renters in the area," Henjum said, adding that she expects demand to be steady until new apartment units under construction are open for business.
Lack of apartment vacancy has hit low-income families the hardest, some real estate experts say.
Even those who have Section 8 vouchers for rental assistance provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can't find a place to live, Crellin said.
Janet Richards, manager at Sacajawea Apartments in Pasco, confirms that. Her 62-unit complex, which has studios and one-bedroom apartments is full.
Richards said she gets 10 to 12 calls a day from people looking for a place to stay. She said her complex caters to low-income people, which is why she hasn't increased the rent in the last year. A studio unit goes for about $387 a month and a one-bedroom for $450, she said.
Many of her tenants receive help from the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, which administers several housing assistance programs.
Richards said many apartment owners and managers don't want to rent to people who use rental assistance. "They don't want to be bothered," she said.