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Family scrambles to find new apartment as rent prices soar to record high

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-20 00:04:22-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The cost to rent an apartment in Colorado Springs is at a new record high.

Data shows median rents in Colorado Springs stand at $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,496 for a two-bedroom.

Throughout the past year, rent increases have been occurring not just in the city of Colorado Springs, but across the entire state. A report by Apartment List shows Colorado Springs, Aurora, and Longmont have all experienced year-over-year growth above the state average (17.1%, 16.6%, and 16.5%, respectively).

The state of the market is making it hard for some renters to make ends meet.

"The rent is $1550, and things are comfortable but not where we can go on vacation or camping which isn't that expensive, everything is paid but things are so tight," said Heather Nottingham.

After 4 1/2 years, her family is moving out of their apartment complex, but they don't know where to go.

"We're going to be staying maybe at a hotel, friends, or family. It's terrible, it's terrible. What do I tell my boys?" said Nottingham.

Nottingham says her apartment complex is not renewing her lease in order to make renovations.

"A few months ago, I got a notice that they were refusing to renew our lease. I reached out to the manager and asked what was going on, did I upset you or do something wrong. She said no your unit is one of the last classic units that have carpet and haven't been renovated. They said we could move into another unit but it was $500 more than what I'm currently paying. Putting it over $2,000 for the same unit, but just with linoleum looking hardwood floors," said Nottingham.

She says it's been hard to find an affordable place to live that can accommodate her family of four.

"We've been trying to get a three-bedroom but the minimum is $2,000. Two bedrooms are $1750 to $1800 so there is not much difference. With the space that they're giving you and paying $2000 a month, you're paying well over for each square foot, and it's unreal," said Nottingham.

Her family has been trying to save to buy a house, but it's not possible with their credit.

"We've been actually trying to fix our credit for the past two years, but recently we've had to utilize our credit cards a little bit more because gas prices have gone up. So that doesn't help and I drive all of the way to Monument and back every day. So we'll use our credit cards to make sure everything is paid, our payments aren't late, but it's not the cushion that they like," said Nottingham.

"The rent is going up and up and up here, and it's not keeping track with the wages. The wages have flat-lined so that means housing gets less and less attainable for more people. There are a number of policies that have contributed to this, some people will tell you this is a market situation, a simple matter of supply and demand. If we just build more houses and eliminate all of the restrictions, it will miraculously fill the void and rents will come down. The reality is that a landlord will charge as much rent as they can get you to pay which means they'll jack it up because they can, not because they have to," said Stephanie Vigil.

She is a local politician and renter who believes there needs to be more done at the local and state level to help stabilize the market and protect renters' rights.

"The first thing we need to do is repeal the statewide ban on rent control and stabilization. Currently, it is against the law for any local government in the state of Colorado to stabilize and control rent. It kinda freaks people out because rent control stirs up this image of a $400 apartment that hasn't gone up since the 70s, but that is first-generation rent control. Rent stabilization can give you a whole suite of options that include not raising it by a certain percentage from year to year or only raising it if there are capital improvements," said Vigil.

Director of the UCCS Economic Forum Tatiana Bailey says data shows at a 40 + work week, 52 weeks per year, the average renter would have to make at least $23.08 per hour (or $48,000).

"The average renter wage is barely seventeen dollars an hour. So there you have the crux of the issue. We're squeezing out the low-income workers from the local market," said Bailey.

Bailey says vacancy rates have increased to 6.1 percent which is interesting because apartments continue to be built in Colorado Springs. She says vacancy rates pre-pandemic and during pandemic all came down so the fact that they've increased is interesting, especially since there is a lot of construction going on.

"Part of the reason rents keep going up is because people keep moving into these incredibly expensive apartments so, in other words, the demand is still there. That is an inherent issue, not just for rentals, but even for single-family homes that people own. If a profit margin is higher for a builder, whether it's for apartments or single-family, what are they going to build? They are going to build higher-end, and as long as that trend is still there, they are going to continue," said Bailey. "Colorado Springs is still considered a tight market, and that kind of goes back to what we were saying before. How can we keep building like this, how can rent continue to go up well the demand is still there?"

As prices continue to skyrocket, renters are worried about the future.

"People that have friends who have rental houses or anything, we need somewhere to go," said Nottingham.

Anyone interested in helping Nottingham can contact her via email at heather.marie8113@gmail.com.