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This is what renters want most — and it's not available in Bellingham

Why is it so hard to find an apartment in Bellingham?

A lack of affordable units and a tight housing market make it difficult for low- and middle-income earners to find a place to rent in Bellingham.
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A lack of affordable units and a tight housing market make it difficult for low- and middle-income earners to find a place to rent in Bellingham.

With a critically low rental vacancy rate in Bellingham, and rent prices far above the national average, it's tough to find a place to live — let alone one that has the features renters want most.

And what they want is to be able to wash their clothes without heading to a coin laundry.

New data compiled by the online platform Apartment List shows that more than half of people searching for a place to rent want a washer-dryer, but that only 9 percent of local properties offer in-unit laundry facilities.

"When I was renting it was always the hookups were included, but you had to provide your own," said Gena Mikkelson of Bellingham. " I got a washer and dryer for hundred bucks in Craigslist."

Apartment List examined internet search patterns and concluded that in Bellingham, renter demand was below average for six of the 10 most coveted amenities.

Nationwide, 53 percent of renters want in-unit laundry facilities, but only 13 percent of properties have it, according to the report.

"I'm not renting anymore because it was pretty much the same price as having a house, but when I did it was either no hook ups or if there were you had to provide your own washer dryer," Mikkelson said.

Median rental rate in Bellingham was $1,630 a month in May, a drop of .06 percent from April, according to a report from Zillow.com.

Nationally, average rent is $1,440.

Local vacancy rate is 2 percent or lower for renters, with experts saying that a healthy vacancy rate is 6 to 7 percent.

Categories in Apartment List's research included in-unit laundry, air conditioning, balcony, gym, pool and pet allowances.

"We categorize Bellingham as having too few amenities," Apartment List's report said. "Renters are likely to have a below average chance of finding all the amenities they want, and a below average chance of ending up with extra amenities that they don’t want."

Also in the "too few amenities" category were Detroit and Bakersfield.

Balconies were the most oversupplied local apartment amenity, a feature sought by only 9 percent of renters.

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Pet allowances were sought by a fifth of renters in Bellingham — 21 percent for cats and 23 percent for dogs, despite a story last year that showed Bellingham renters were having trouble finding a place to rent that allows pets.

Apartment List's study shows that nationwide, 48 percent of properties were dog-friendly and 52 percent were cat-friendly.

But 27 percent of renters wanted a dog and 12 percent wanted a cat.

Bellingham figures weren't available for the percentage of properties that that allow dogs and cats.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty
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