City Releases Results of Rental Housing Survey

Construction crews continue work on the Stadium View Apartments in Bozeman on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

For anyone who has looked for rental housing in Bozeman lately, this may not come as a surprise: Pickings are slim.

Now the city has data to back that up. Results of the 2014 Bozeman Rental Housing Survey were presented to the city's Community Affordable Housing Advisory Board on Wednesday.

The vacancy rate for rental housing in Bozeman is “effectively zero,” said Julie Cerenzia, president of Open Window Consulting LLC, which conducted the survey.

The survey was conducted by phone in July and August and collected data from 44 properties with 2,554 total rental units in the city limits. About half were market-rate properties. The rest were subsidized properties and non-residence hall student housing that is operated by Montana State University Family & Graduate Housing.

At the time of the survey, no student housing or market-rate properties polled reported any vacancies.

“The market rate properties surveyed do not maintain waiting lists, so unmet demand in this segment cannot be estimated,” the summary states. “Two subsidized properties reported a total of five currently vacant units; however, six other subsidized properties that keep waiting lists reported a total of 155 applicants on those lists.”

Based on the survey's findings, the report says it is safe to conclude that the number of applicants exceed the number of vacancies, though the exact unmet demand cannot easily be determined.

Two-thirds of all rental units included in the survey had two bedrooms. About 30 percent were one-bedroom units, and 18 percent surveyed had three bedrooms. Studio-type apartments, otherwise called efficiency units, made up less than 5 percent.

The average monthly price of an efficiency unit in a market rate property was $549. For a one-bedroom place it was $597; a two-bedroom unit was $817; and a three-bedroom was $1,035.

The data didn't include average rental costs for top-end units because the property manager did not provide the information. However, surveyors found one top-end efficiency unit that rented for $750 per month and a single one-bedroom for $870 per month.

The average monthly rent for student housing is lower. A one-bedroom rents for $550. A two-bedroom rents for an average of $602 and a three-bedroom for $711.

The summary points out that the data shouldn't be used to make generalized conclusions for Bozeman's entire rental market because it was only taken from one segment of the market. Large, multifamily properties and mobile homes were sampled.

Cerenzia said one thing that surprised her during the survey was that property management companies did not have software to list a complete inventory of their properties.

In order to get more complete data, she suggests the city conduct the survey in October and November, which is a slower time for property managers. She also suggests incentivizing participation by sending summary statistics to participants.

Another way to ensure that the city receives more comprehensive data in the future is to require property owners to register rental properties with the city, Cerenzia said.

The survey is part of the city's affordable housing plan that was adopted in 2012.

Data collected in the survey will be passed on to the city's planning department. The results will be posted on the city's website.

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