Friday, July 15, 2016

Abundance of Vacant Burlngton Apartments--A Snapshot Survey

Ample Rental Housing Availability in Burlington Today

...rental vacancy rate possible upward rise to “glut” status?

With a first hand experience of searching for an apartment just five years ago in Burlington when there were practically none, a snapshot of available apartments today—129 tabulated—shows a surprising number of apartments in most neighborhoods which confirms two recent studies showing a 2.5% vacancy rate moving to a “healthy” 3-5% vacancy range for Burlington and Chittenden County.

There is a myth about a current housing crisis because of no housing available to rent--we just need to build more units and that will alleviate half the crisis (the other half being households being able to afford rentals). Well, the lack of housing units available is just that, a myth, and the 1,400 units built, under construction and well into the permitting process 2014 to date in Burlington alone suggests there more likely exists an increasingly healthy vacancy rate and a possible oncoming housing glut. A a return to the drought of years past—just ask landlords and they express concerns over lack of rental demand in this market when they know projects are rapidly coming on line. Even with the current level of vacancy rental costs very likely will not rise and in fact decline modestly in the coming months.

A survey of apartments for rent through newspaper and online sites like Craigslist is a quick and easy way to gauge housing availability and median prices in a small housing market like that of Burlington. The last census counted about 10,000 rental units and the 129 units tabulated here represent 1.3% of the 2010 inventory. Here are the results as found without adjusting for costs of utilities (most do not include electric or heat). The July 11-12 survey is not exhaustive but the numbers do reflect what a person seeking a rental would likely find at this time.

Survey of 129 Apartments for Rent Listings Online July 11-12, 2016

Bedroom Size Number Price Range Median (Middle) Price

0 (studio) 14 $700-$1,400 $968

1 38 $700-$1,900 $1,050

2 43 $700-$2,600 $1,050

3 26 $799-$2595 $1,825

4 or more 8 $875-$2,900 $2,400

Note Bright Street Coop and 237 Pearl Street were clearly in process of renting up their respective projects.

Clearly the 129 units are an “indicator” as apartment brokers generally have many units that are not placed onto online availability. The two most recent authoritative private surveys over the past year revealed about a 2.5% average vacancy rate for Burlngton and the Chittenden County with an upward trend.

Housing Affordability and the $15 Minimum Wage

The impact of minimum wage changes on apartment affordability are quite dramatic. A minimum wage worker income ($9.20 minimum wage in Vermont today) is approximately $20,000 a year, so a median rent efficiency (studio) apartment would consume about 60% of income. For a couple earning minimum wage, a one bedroom median rent apartment would consume about 32% of total income. With a minimum wage of $15 the percentages drop to 37% for a single person renting a median priced studio apartment devoted to rent working at minimum wage, and 20% for two minimum wage workers for a median priced one-bedroom rental.

There are other important factors favoring an increased vacancy rate and some rent reductions from resultant market forces. These include not only additions to the rental inventory—about 900 units from the Ireland Grove Street and Cambrian Rise (Burlington College lane project) but also from the drop of as many as 1,000 students in rental housing since the peak year of 2010, and a slight decline in under 65-age population for the current 2010-2030 projection period for the County as a whole.

Two major housing needs? First, deep subsidy rental “voucher” type assistance which enables renter choice—the federal government has cut these by about 1,000 units since 2000. Perhaps the State and even the City might move to fill this gap. Second, there remains and will continue a major need for senior housing and a continuum of senior housing ranging from apartments, assisted housing, group homes and finally nursing homes of various care levels.

Apartments available websites

Here are three popular websites to find rental housing in Burlington and Chittenden County:
Burlington housing market rental websites:


Bissonnette Properties: