Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Apartment construction keeps pace, rents stay down in Cities of Fairfield and Vacaville in Solano County

Article Launched: 11/22/2005 06:26:58 AM

Area rental relief
Apartment construction keeps pace, rents stay down

The latest survey of rents in Vacaville and Fairfield has some good news for apartment dwellers, some favorable results for landlords and an indication that the housing challenges ahead have not changed much.

For those looking to live in a smaller studio apartment, the supply is not overwhelming. Therefore, it was not unexpected that rents increased more than 7 percent over what a renter paid a year ago. New construction is focused on larger units - two or three bedrooms for renters who cannot get into the single-family home market.

The median rent for a studio apartment in the area is $750, an increase of 7.14 percent from 2004.

However, a survey by Fairfield's Planning and Development Department showed that rents were stable for the larger units, as vacancy rates climbed a bit. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased 3.13 percent, to $825, while the two-bedroom apartment median rose only .22 of a percent to $925. The monthly rate for a three-bedroom unit rose 1.88 percent to $1,195.

Overall, it seemed, the landlords were able to raise rents, but nowhere near the skyrocketing ascent they took three or four years ago when the demand overran the supply. Double-digit rent increases were common back then.

New construction has been a bit more healthy in recent years. City planners and elected officials have realized the need to provide rental housing in the market. After all, fewer local residents can afford to get into home ownership these days.

New construction seems to have kept pace with demand of late. Still, most of those in entry-level jobs still cannot afford to live in Vacaville or Fairfield. They commute from communities like Davis or Woodland or West Sacramento where rents are more affordable.

In other words, the local cities should continue to move along multi-family projects in order to keep pace with demand, but also to keep rents from climbing too quickly. In Dixon for instance, a new complex that offers help to qualified individuals - those whose income is below the median - is ready to open with 200 would-be renters on a waiting list for 100 units.

As long as workers and residents flow out of the central Bay Area to Solano County, the pressure on the housing supply will not cease. Policy-makers in our cities should not constrict the builders who are ready to provide rental units for those not ready or able to become homeowners.

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