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Zero percent vacancy surrounding CU-Boulder campus is driving up rent
Zero percent vacancy surrounding CU-Boulder campus is driving up rent

The average cost of rent per month:
Boulder’s University area: $940
City of Boulder: $1,175
Boulder, Broomfield: $1,091
Denver metro: $979
Source: The Colorado Division of Housing

For the second summer in a row, University of Colorado senior Matt Carrico said he procrastinated with his search for housing in Boulder before the fall semester begins — and both times he happened to secure one of the last rentals within walking distance of campus.

“I’m lazy,” Carrico said. “I guess I’m a lucky guy.”

Ryan McMaken, of the Colorado Division of Housing, said a survey taken on June 10 revealed a zero vacancy rate for properties in Boulder’s campus area — including rentals between Pearl Street and Baseline running north and south; and Pleasant View Road and Fourth Street going east and west.

“It’s pretty rare to see something this low,” McMaken said, noting that  Boulder has not had a vacancy rate of zero since at least 1994. 

Carrico filled out an application to lease the one remaining bedroom in the two-building complex Tuesday at Cascade Apartments on 20th Street near Broadway, a few blocks from campus.

Carrico said location was a top priority, even over price, when searching for a rental. Now that he’s found an “ideal” location that he can afford, he’s hoping his roommate, whom he hasn’t yet met, is a good match.

The next vacancy survey will be taken in September, after CU’s fall semester begins and the rest of the students are moved in, which means the vacancy rate will likely remain at zero percent for the third quarter, McMaken said.

Vacancy rates have dropped throughout the City of Boulder from 4.7 percent in the second quarter last year to the current 4.4 percent, he said. The Boulder and Broomfield vacancy rate has seen a significant decrease this year from 4.6 percent last year to 3.6 percent this year.

While rent averages in the Boulder/Broomfield areas have climbed from $1,016 last year to $1,091 this year, the cost is still lower than the City of Boulder’s rent average. McMaken said this may be a factor that is driving students to the Broomfield area to search for rentals, especially if they can’t find a place near campus.

Denver’s vacancy rates have not changed from last year’s 4.8 percent, but the rent average has increased from $915 to $979.

Vacancy rates climbed across Colorado in the second quarter of 2009 during the peak of the recession, but fell back to normal rates the following year, he said. Overall, vacancy rates have dropped across the state this year.

“The last couple of years have been really tight,” McMaken said. “Nobody’s been building anything and people just can’t buy like they used to. There are more renters, but not more properties.”

Christina Alderson, business manager for Boulder’s Lofts on the Hill and Lofts on College, said the properties were the only new builds on University Hill in the last couple of years. Lofts on the Hill opened in January of 2011 and Lofts on College opened last August, Alderson said.

It’s likely that people were taking on more roommates in 2009 to help absorb some of the living expenses, McMaken said. As people are feeling more financially stable, they’re looking to drop roommates and move into their own space, in turn, filling more properties, he said.

The average rent for all properties in the surrounding university area sits at $940 per month, compared to last year’s $859 per month. The City of Boulder has also increased to $1,175 this year from $1,124 last year. 

New construction and amenities make many of the rentals outside of the university area more expensive, said Tom Orlando of Boulder’s Housing Helpers.

Orlando said he was surprised to learn about the unusual vacancy rates, but after making some calls nearly two months after the vacancy survey was completed, he could find only one unit for rent in the area surrounding campus.

Orlando said around this time of year, it’s typical for properties with vacancies to offer special rates in hopes of filling remaining units. So far, he said he hasn’t had any specials to offer students this month.

Despite the difficult search, Orlando said it also seems like fewer students are searching for last-minute housing this summer. He said Housing Helpers is currently working with a couple dozen students who are still on the hunt.

“We’re still placing people, just not in the immediate university area,” Orlando said. “Students who look late always have to be flexible, and this year that means looking a little further from campus where they may have to consider taking the bus.”

Carrico said he learned his lesson this year and had some advice for students who will be searching for housing in Boulder next year, “plan ahead.”