More apartments are available to rent in the Tri-Cities as a result of almost $204 million in new construction during the past seven years.
Richland, which has the most new apartment complexes, had an 8 percent vacancy rate in May, according to a survey by EverStar Realty of Kennewick.
Kennewick's vacancy rate was 6 percent, while Pasco had the lowest at 5 percent, according to the survey.
It's the most availability the Tri-Cities has seen since 2007, when vacancy rates began to tighten, reaching 2 percent and less in 2010 and 2011.
The Tri-City vacancy rate has gradually eased since then.
The area had a 4.6 percent vacancy rate in March 2013, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.
The center has not issued vacancy rates for spring yet.
Developers aim for a 5 percent vacancy rate, which allows time for maintenance and repair, according to experts.
The Tri-Cities saw a boom in multi-family housing construction in 2012 and 2013.
Overall, the Tri-Cities has seen 21 new apartment and multi-family complexes finished in the past seven years. That's added about 2,000 new rental units.
Navigator Villas, a 176-unit fourplex project on Road 68 and Powerline Road in Pasco, was finished this year after the first units were permitted in 2012.
In May, about 56 percent of the units had been rented out, according to the survey.
Last month, a grand opening was held for the Lofts at Innovation Center, a 160-unit complex at 2895 Pauling Ave. in Richland.
More complexes are in the works. A 12-unit complex is being built at 2112 S. Rainier St. in Kennewick.
Pasco recently permitted a 38-unit project by the Housing Authority of Pasco and Franklin County at Fourth and Pearl streets.
A 642-unit apartment complex, Badger Canyon Apartments, still is in the planning stages near the southwest corner of the intersection of Ridgeline Drive and South Clodfelter Road in Kennewick. Edward Rose & Sons of Farmington Hills, Mich., is working through the site approval process, which has to happen before it can apply for building permits for the first phase of the project.
The first phase for Badger Canyon, at 10251 Ridgeline Drive, is proposed to include two 48-unit buildings and a clubhouse.
The friendlier market for rental housing hunters means more property managers are offering special deals on rent and deposits. Of about 75 multi-family complexes included in the recent survey, about 15 reported they were offering some form of a deal to new residents.
Still, affordable apartments for low-income families remain difficult to find.
Apartment complexes that those families can afford tend to have lower than average vacancy rates, with some reporting that they are 99 percent to 100 percent full.
Most of the newer apartment complexes offer rents that are out of reach for many low-income families.
Rents gradually have been increasing during the past decade. The average rent in Richland was $743 for a one-bedroom apartment and $846 for a two-bedroom apartment in May, according to the survey.
Average rents in Kennewick were $644 for a one-bedroom and $773 for a two-bedroom.
Pasco's average rents were $640 for a one-bedroom and $784 for a two-bedroom.
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-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; email@example.com