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Ever wonder why rent continues to go up in Bellingham? Just look at the factors at play

Cascade Drywall's Jordan Snow lifts up a piece of drywall while working in the Garden Street Flats apartment building under construction in Bellingham on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The 14-unit building is expected to be finished in July.
Cascade Drywall's Jordan Snow lifts up a piece of drywall while working in the Garden Street Flats apartment building under construction in Bellingham on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The 14-unit building is expected to be finished in July. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

A pair of studies indicate the cost of renting a house or apartment in Bellingham continues to rise.

A recent market report by Zillow indicates the median monthly rental payment in February was $1,526, up 4.7 percent in the past year. A study from apartmentlist.com reports that in March rents in Bellingham were up 5.2 percent compared to a year earlier.

While the year-over-year rent increase is up significantly, the growth has slowed somewhat since last fall, said Aaron Terrazas, Zillow’s senior economist.

Last fall, the housing facility NXNW opened on Lincoln Street, just south of the Lakeway Fred Meyer. Focused on housing for college students, NXNW was 100 percent occupied when it opened, housing 640 people.

“However, our numbers also show that slowing rent growth since late last year has not been enough to improve rent affordability,” Terrazas said.

Along with limited supply for rentals, a few other factors appear to be behind the continued rise of rent. One is the very low inventory of homes for sale – which has led to rising prices for homes that are on the market.

“As there are fewer for-sale options on the market, young adults will often delay buying their first home and end up renting for longer,” Terrazas said.

The local economy is also a factor. Job and income growth have been strong, he said.

“Given the area’s pace of growth, it would require very aggressive building to keep rent affordability in check,” Terrazas said.

Being in the shadow of the Seattle economic engine is also a factor. Home values in metro Seattle are up 11.2 percent while rents grew 7.2 percent.

According to the Zillow report, the median rent across the U.S. was $1,406 in February, a 1.2 percent increase compared to a year ago. Seattle, Portland and Sacramento had the highest increases among major U.S. housing markets.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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