By Associated Press • 

Construction increase could ease Bend housing crunch

The Bulletin newspaper reports that Bend has recovered many of the jobs lost during the recession and is even starting to gain jobs, which are being filled by newcomers. Housing is already a problem for many, and employers complain that some new employees are commuting from as far as Prineville.

“It’s hard enough for us to find software developers. They’re in extreme high demand,” said Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent, a software company in Bend. “Once you get them, and they come to town, they start saying, ‘Well, I can’t find a place to live.’”

The vacancy rate for rental property in Bend in April was 2.4 percent for a house and 0.8 percent for a duplex, according to the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association annual survey. Between 1.4 percent and 1.6 percent of all Bend apartments surveyed, about 400, were available to rent.

Rising rents reflect the tight market. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bend has increased from an average $629 in 2012 to $847 this year, according to the association’s survey. That’s a jump of nearly 35 percent.

The apartment construction boom follows a protracted drought, and the projects range from government-subsidized public housing to high-end market-rate apartments.

“This is a huge amount of multifamily housing activity all at once,” wrote Aaron Henson, city senior planner, in a recent email. “To put things in perspective, there was virtually no new multifamily housing built in Bend during the 10-year period from 2004 to 2013.”

That number’s expected to change in the coming year. After a long drought, a flood of apartment construction is starting to flow in Bend. Financial constraints that kept builders away from the multifamily market have improved to the point that building apartments, particularly, may turn a profit.

In all, more than 1,000 units of multifamily housing, meaning apartments and townhouses destined for the rental market, are in various phases of development, according to the city Community Development Department. Some builders are in early discussions with city planners, some have building permits under review and two projects are under construction. The projects range from government-subsidized public housing to high-end market-rate apartments.

The sudden surge in multifamily projects indicates the bottom-line calculations in Bend are starting to pencil out, developers said.

“We like the market fundamentals in Bend that we’re seeing right now,” said Andrew Brand, director of development for Evergreen Housing Development Group. “A year ago some of the same fundamentals that we’re looking at right now were in play; they just weren’t quite as strong.”

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