Rent hikes pushing many long-time tenants out

Heated growth, tight vacancies fuel trend in Central Oregon

Rent hikes pushing tenants out

BEND, Ore. - Rising rents amid a tight rental market are an ongoing trend in Central Oregon. Tenants at one Bend apartment complex, The Commons at Pilot Butte, are the latest victim.

Rents there are increasing by at least $200 a month, but in some cases more for tenants. If they can't pay, and many can't, they must move.

"It is scary, because I don't know where I can go," tenant Regina Chesner said Thursday. "Like I said, I can couch surf. I have friends. I have family. I would love to have my own home."

Chesner said when she moved in three years ago, her rent was around $650, plus utilities. Management raised the rent once to $910 on a month-to-month basis, or about $850 on a lease.

Chesner, who has a housing stipend, could afford that increase. However, it's going up again. Soon, her 724-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment will cost $1,050 plus utilities. It's a price Chesner cannot afford.

"I don't know how anyone can afford it," she added.

And she's not alone, as several other tenants are moving out as well.

"You know, we've been here a long time, but we can't keep up," said another resident, Katie Runge. 

Management at The Commons at Pilot Butte refused to comment. The complex is owned by Quantum Management Services, a Seattle-based company. 

City Councilor Barb Campbell said, "This is the kind of problem that can honestly trap someone in homelessness."

The rental housing market in Bend has been called a crisis. City councilors are faced with the issue on a regular basis.

At Wednesday night's meeting, the council discussed urban renewal projects as a way to deal with lack of affordable housing. It's also moved to give developer-fee breaks to builders who guarantee rents won't be as high as the market can bear.

Campbell said the extraordinary number of homes turned into short-term vacation rentals on the city's Westside is also part of the problem, pushing more people to the Eastside -- and pushing current residents out. 

"We simply don't have housing for them," she said. "We don't have any place for them to go."

Campbell said rent control, like cities like New York have, could be a potential fix. 

"It's simply unacceptable -- we have to build more workforce housing," Campbell said. 

The housing vacancy rate in Bend is less than 1 percent , so landlords are following the market and cashing in.

Many property owners say they are only dealing with supply and demand and their own rising costs, as well as recovering from the financial blows they suffered during the economic downturn not that long ago.

Runge said, "They're just trying to keep up with it, which is fair. But it's unfair to those who have been loyal to (a property)."

Chesner has another word for it. 

"Quit being so greedy -- there's enough to go around," she said.

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