Recent stories about the tight rental market have inspired hundreds of comments at Westword.com. The good news is that if you look hard enough, $1,000 a month can still net you a decent place in metro Denver. The bad news: Considering that the per capita income in Denver is about $24,000, that's about half a month's salary for a lot of people.
From a one-bedroom sublet in LoDo to a horse property in Fort Collins, here's what we recently found available for $1,000 a month, followed by much more about rent prices in Denver.
A 475-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in West Washington Park. Comes with bike storage, dishwasher, stainless-steel appliances. Number 9:
A 750-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in north Capitol Hill. Comes with pool, grill, shared laundry. Number 8:
A 900-square-foot two-bedroom, one-bath condo in the Whittier neighborhood. Comes with off-street parking, wall-to-wall carpet, updated kitchen. Continue for more examples of what $1,000 for rent will get you in Denver and much more about rising rental prices. Number 7:
An 860-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath sublet in LoDo. Comes with washer/dryer in unit, fireplace, walk-in closet, parking spot, fitness center, pool. Number 6:
Studio basement apartment on a 35-acre ranch in Franktown, an hour southeast of Denver. Comes with patio, hot tub, wood-burning fireplace, washer/dryer hookups, horse boarding for $100 per month. Number 5:
A 700-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Denver's Mayfair neighborhood. Comes with indoor pool and hot tub, outdoor pool, gym, sauna, private deck, one off-street parking space per apartment. Continue for more examples of what $1,000 for rent will get you in Denver and much more about rising rental prices. Number 4:
Horse property in Fort Collins. Comes with space for five horses, indoor and outdoor arenas, seven stalls. Number 3:
A 750-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Aurora complex. Comes with wood-burning fireplace, patio, on-site laundry or washer/dryer hookups, two heated pools, basketball court. Number 2:
An 871-square-foot two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Broomfield. Comes with off-street and guest parking, in-building laundry, heated pool. Continue for more examples of what $1,000 for rent will get you in Denver and much more about rising rental prices. Number 1:
The lower level of a 3,300-square-foot house in Roxborough Park. Comes with washer/dryer, kitchen, patio, "extra-large hallway."
Here's more about high rent prices in Denver:
Eve Isaacks has been on her own since her early teens. Now pushing thirty, the massage therapist has lived in dozens of apartments around Denver, sometimes with roommates, sometimes on her own. Finding a decent, affordable one-bedroom apartment in her home town wasn't a problem a few years ago. But last summer, ten days before her twelve-month lease was set to expire, Isaacks's landlord told her he was going to double her rent -- to $1,250 -- whether she decided to renew or not.
Isaacks was living in Sunnyside, an area in northwest Denver bordering Highland, one of the more popular neighborhoods in town. Popular now, at least. Much like the rest of the metro area, northwest Denver had a vacancy rate in the double digits -- 16 percent -- in the first quarter of 2004. But a decade later, the city's relatively quick bounce back from the recession, as well as stricter mortgage standards, has created more renters than Denver can shoulder. Today, half of this city's households rent, according to the Denver Metro Apartment Vacancy & Rent Survey for the third quarter of 2014. And by the second quarter of 2013, the vacancy rate in northwest Denver was about 1 percent.
As overall vacancy rates in Denver have fallen -- from about 7.5 percent in 2009 to just shy of 4 percent this year, the second-lowest ever -- renters face increased competition. So much so, in fact, that many landlords are raising rents drastically. In 2009, the average rent in Denver was a little more than $875 a month. That's $963 today, when adjusted for inflation -- but in October of this year, the actual average rent was $1,145, up from $1,050 this time last year. In a report released last month, Apartment List noted that "in general, the Denver metro is experiencing explosive rent growth. Across the area, rents are up 8.6% year over year, which translates to a staggering 3.5x more growth than average rents nationwide."
Isaacks couldn't come close to covering her new rent. In May 2013, a bad fall at roller-derby practice had left hairline fractures in her two lowest vertebrae. Unable to continue working as a massage therapist, she'd become a waitress and had struggled to afford even $600 a month in rent. Aware of her situation, her landlord told her he'd return some of her rent if she moved out early. Twelve applicants had already expressed interest in her apartment, he said, and one couple had already toured it, without her knowing. "Any money I could get, I needed. I said yes and got some help to move out, even though I didn't have a place to move to," she remembers.
She slept on couches until a friend of a friend of a friend offered her a room in her grandmother's house for $350 a month in exchange for some manual labor. But then the woman raised the amount to $750; Isaacks moved out. She found a $600 bedroom in an apartment on Craigslist, but moved out after she had a violent encounter with her landlord. Isaacks didn't get her deposit back on either room.
Unless a lease spells out specific agreements, a renter may have no legal recourse to get a deposit refunded. A lease will usually specify the amount of notification a landlord must give a tenant before increasing rents, but that amount can be short. And without a lease, a landlord can increase rent on a whim, according to Pat Coyle, director of the Colorado Division of Housing.
To keep up with demand, close to 9,150 apartment units were built in Denver last year, and another 8,700 are expected by the end of 2014. But the market is still very tight. "If the demand for rentals is there, I'm going to go ahead and build apartments for as much as I can rent them for," says Carol Martin, an adjunct instructor of real estate at the Community College of Aurora. "We're going for the higher-end stuff because there's still a market for it." Martin, who sold real estate in Denver for fifteen years, considers rising rent a symptom of a bigger problem: Inflation hasn't kept up with housing costs nationwide, which means fewer people can afford adequate housing. "It's almost like the same thing that happened going into the housing bubble," she explains. "Housing prices were rising too fast for people's incomes to keep up. The problem we're in now has been developing over decades."
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With $2,000 less in her pocket, Isaacks struggled to catch up on bills. Still, she was lucky: A family friend, a chiropractor, provided cheap X-rays, while friends and colleagues gave her free physical therapy. She now lives in the basement of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Edgewater that she shares with two roommates, both childhood friends. One's father owns the house, so they each pay only $300 a month in rent. (Average rent in Edgewater is about $870 a month.) Soon they'll make room for another friend who has had similar trouble finding an apartment: The friend currently pays $750 a month for her one-bedroom off Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, but when her lease is up in February, rent will increase to $1,300 a month.
"Being from Denver and also a part of several small but close-knit communities is what has helped me survive this year, as well as how I am getting by and able to stay in Denver now," Isaacks says. "Not a single one of us would be in a position to afford our own apartment right now.... I previously haven't considered leaving [Denver], because I'm from here and I like it, but I've been thinking about it now."
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