The scoop on Grand Forks renting troubles

Talk to anyone trying to find an apartment in Grand Forks, and they’ll tell you it’s a nearly impossible task.

The main complaints are there aren’t enough apartments and the ones that are open are way too expensive. In the reporting series “Eye on Housing” that debuted this past Sunday, I took a look at several components of the city’s rental market including apartment stock, rent rates, apartments for pet lovers and a growing demand for seniors rental housing.

There’s more on the way tomorrow but here are the highlights of days one and two of the series.

Despite boom of new apartments, few available to meet demand

Construction on the Boulder Luxury Apartments, located on Thirteenth Avenue South at the intersection with South Colombia Road, just north of Hugo’s, is underway and expected to be complete in the spring of 2014. The lot of about two and a half acres will feature a four-story building housing 51 units. Photo credit: Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald

Grand Fork resident Aaron Castoreno can sum up the city’s rental market in two words.

“It sucks,” he said. “Basically, you can’t find anything, or it’s gone right away.”

The 28-year-old father of two has been searching for a house to rent near his children’s elementary school for about of six months. He and his wife Taylor gave up trying to buy a home near West Elementary a while ago, he said.

They’ve toured a few homes in that neighborhood, located just east of UND’s campus. One three-bedroom house rented for $1,800 per month.

“It wasn’t worth it,” Castoreno said, noting the basement of the home was prone to flooding and parts of it were in disrepair.

To make matters worse, the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are experiencing some of the lowest apartment vacancy rates in at least 10 years. In July 2013, about 4 percent of apartments in the cities surveyed by the Greater Grand Forks Apartment Association were vacant. In February, that number was 2.3 percent. Two years earlier, the rate had been 7 percent in July and 9 percent in February.

The higher July rate could reflect higher turnover typical for summer months, but about 200 units were added to the rental stock in 2012 and also could account for the slight vacancy increase. Hundreds more are slated for construction this summer in the city and could be the answer to a phenomenon housing experts say they haven’t seen the likes of in Grand Forks. Continue reading this story here. Watch the preview video for this story here.

Scarcity of apartments squeezes apartment dwellers with lagging incomes in Grand Forks

It’s a basic lesson in supply and demand, but a lack of apartments and an increase in rent has made life anything but simple for Grand Forks renters.

Serena Lackman sits in her Grand Forks apartment downtown on South Third Street, discussing the process in which she applied to receive her income-based rental unit. Photo credit: Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald

Serena Lackman, 23, recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment, a goal she has had since moving out of UND’s residence halls three years ago. Her income-based rent is lower than the rent charged for similar places and allows her to keep her place while going to school for her second degree.

“It’s the only way I can afford to live by myself,” Lackman said. “It’s really disappointing. At market price, I couldn’t afford it.”

Lackman’s situation isn’t unique.

Renters and housing agencies say high rent prices are keeping many in the city from living comfortably. Continue reading this story here. 

Many apartments in Grand Forks closed to animals or come with extra costs

Patrick Bailey sits with his 5-year-old dog Lou during a break from moving back into his parents’ home in East Grand Forks. With only one more semester of undergraduate education left, Bailey will be staying with his parents and then preparing once again for the difficult task of finding a place fit for him and Lou. Photo by Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald

Finding an apartment can be challenging, but for those who have a dog or cat in tow the task can be nearly impossible, according to Grand Forks renters.

Patrick Bailey, 23, has been renting in the city for four years while studying history and political science at UND.

He said he preferred to live near campus or his downtown job, but his permanent roommate, Lou, has made finding a home tricky in the past.

Lou is a 5-year-old Australian shepherd and black lab mix.

“It’s difficult to find places that do allow dogs,” Bailey said.

Places that do often have a weight restriction. At about 80 pounds, Lou is double or even triple those limits.

Bailey thought he lucked out when he found a place with a 60-pound limit.

“I figured you couldn’t see the extra 15 pounds on him,” he said. “But they weighed my dog.” Continue reading this story here.

More rental units needed for seniors, disabled

While college students are often portrayed as the typical renters in Grand Forks, a growing number of older residents in the next decade could have developers thinking twice about who their target customers are.

A housing fair at the Grand Forks Senior Citizens Center recently provided education and housing options for adults 55 years and older. Photo credit: Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The city’s senior population is expected to increase by 20 percent in the next 10 years, according to data assembled for the Grand Forks Housing Authority’s 2012 housing needs assessment.

“To date, the community has done well serving the housing needs of the elderly population,” the Housing Authority’s Executive Director Terry Hanson said. “I don’t think it’s prepared for what is coming down the road.”

A bigger population of senior residents will want more specialized apartments and assisted living facilities as many will trade their houses for more manageable living spaces.

Even now, an unusually low vacancy rate has left Grand Forks strapped for available places — especially ones that accommodate seniors’ needs.

As people age, they may develop disabilities such as difficulty hearing, seeing or walking. These may limit what kind of housing people can safely live in and creates a need for senior-friendly rentals. Living on a fixed income also adds to that limit. Continue reading this story here. 

One thought on “The scoop on Grand Forks renting troubles

  1. I think you have a great series and fair assessment. This situation isn’t just Grand Forks, basically it is impossible to find something to rent in all of North Dakota. Unfortunately, the landlords know this and have most of the laws on their side so they screw everyone.

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