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Fewer Apartment Vacancies Means A Tougher Housing Search In Salt Lake

Lee Hale
Sterling Rodgers, a student at LDS Business College, spent over a month looking for housing after arriving in Salt Lake.


There aren’t many empty apartments in Salt Lake Valley these days. According to a report released earlier this month the vacancy rate is at 2.9%—which means more than 97% of apartments in Salt Lake County are occupied.


That makes for a tough housing search for people like Sterling Rodgers.


Rodgers is a student at LDS Business College and moved to Salt Lake from his hometown in  Arizona over a month ago. But it wasn't until last Friday that he was able to unpack his suitcases somewhere permanent.


"I just thought I didn't know where to look or just wasn't having good luck," Rodgers says.


When he first arrived, Rodgers began doing the typical online searches—Google, Craigslist, Facebook—but nothing in his price range was showing up.


Finally, two weeks ago, he got a message. Some guys were looking for a 5th roommate to share a two bedroom apartment. Tight quarters, but Rodgers says he’s up for it.


"If I don’t like my roommates, I’ll just spend more time at school," Rodgers laughs.


Along with that vacancy rate of about 3%, overall apartment rent prices have increased nearly 5% since this time last year. And all this despite new units constantly being built throughout the county


James Wood is a senior fellow at the University of Utah’s Kem C Gardner Policy Institute and the author of the recent apartment report.  He says he’s surprised by what he found.


“I expected this year because we’ve had so much new construction in the last three or four years that we’d see a larger increase in the vacancy rate but it barely budged," Wood says.


Because of this, Wood adds, people hoping to move to Salt Lake are forced to make some tough trade offs. That could mean less square footage, higher rent or an less desirable location than expected.


Because fewer vacancies means fewer choices, for everyone.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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