Even with lots of new construction, here’s how much rents increased in Bellingham

Renting a place in Bellingham is becoming more expensive, even as more apartments are becoming available through new construction.

The median monthly Bellingham rent for a one-bedroom place was $1,080 in September, an 8% increase compared to a year ago. That’s according to a study done by Zumper, which analyzed active listings to come up with its median price.

For a two-bedroom unit, Zumper estimates the median rent in Bellingham was $1,320, a 2.3% increase compared to a year ago.

Bellingham’s upward rent trend is a signal that demand is outpacing supply, said Crystal Chen, a spokeswoman at Zumper, an online site that focuses on residential rentals and is headquartered in San Francisco. While a healthy rental vacancy rate is around 7%, Bellingham’s has hovered around 2%, she said.

“Until enough housing is made available in this market, the prices will continue to rise,” Chen said in an email.

This low supply has happened despite the increase in residential construction projects. Last year Bellingham approved permits for 578 multi-family housing units, the second-highest annual total in 10 years. Through September 2019, approved permits for multi-family units totaled 516, according to city permit data.

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Bellingham’s median rental price is actually on the lower end when compared to other Western Washington cities. Bellevue had the highest, with a median monthly rent of $2,020 for a one-bedroom place. Seattle is next at $1,950 a month.

Bellingham ranked 13th highest among the cities studied. Other Washington cities with higher median monthly rents include Bremerton ($1,200 for a one-bedroom), Tacoma ($1,220), Olympia ($1,280) and Everett ($1,300).

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.