She said the nonprofit has 3,399 people using rental assistance vouchers.
“Our housing choice voucher holders are finding it harder to find housing because rates are high, supply is still relatively low and turnover has declined during the eviction moratorium,” she wrote to The Columbian in an email. “We have a higher demand for subsidized housing as the ‘naturally occurring’ affordable housing disappears and people on fixed income are priced out.
“We have a higher demand for our tax credit housing because the 60 percent (area median income) rental rates are now well below market rents. This was not the case 15 to 20 years ago when we first started developing this type of housing.”
When the state’s eviction moratorium and ‘bridge’ program end at the end of September — if they are not extended — people who can’t keep up with rising rental rates could be squeezed out of their homes. Some who don’t qualify for or learn about assistance programs may end up homeless.
Landlords are able to increase apartment rents because the demand is so high. Even so, many small local landlords are not earning a return on their investment because of the restriction on evictions.
Landlords sell out
In some cases, small local landlords are selling their properties because it’s too hard to show a profit and sale prices of investment properties are at a peak.
Jeffrey Gibbons owns a handful of small rental units in Clark County. He said he tries to raise rents only when a unit is vacated because he knows how locals are struggling with rising rates. He said he has a unit in Vancouver he could rent for $1,650, but he rents it for $1,035 a month.
“We have some people pretty close to the edge,” he said. “When we turn over a unit, we go to market rate.”
Gibbons said he’s lost money because of the eviction moratorium: One tenant cut off communication and left after 11 months of not paying, he said. Incidents like that are causing smaller, more generous landlords to get out.
“A lot of landlords are selling out,” he said. “They can get a fortune out of it now. COVID was too much.”
Gibbons, who works at Portland International Airport, said a few of his co-workers decided to buy cheaper property in Longview and commute the 50 minutes each way to PDX.
“I grew up in the San Francisco area, and I commuted a long way into work,” he said. “Now we’re going into that here as well. You can buy a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Longview for $250,000. Affordable housing? I hate to say it, but there it is.”
Vancouver’s population increase is driving rental rates; more demand fuels higher prices.
An estimated 13,600 people moved to Clark County during the pandemic, according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management. About 4,900 people moved to Vancouver last year.
Wilkerson said there are 31,600 apartment units in Vancouver, and at least 1,000 more are in development or the planning stages.
“Very few of those are going to be ‘affordable,’ ” he said.
Dylan Rogers is one of the former Vancouverites who moved away because rent is too expensive. He now lives in La Grande, Ore., and it “feels more normal,” he said.
Rogers, 22, said he works at Starbucks and splits his $600 apartment rent with a roommate to save for Oregon State University’s tuition, where he hopes to enroll in about a year and a half. Living in La Grande, and pursuing remote learning from OSU, Rogers can live an affordable lifestyle in the small Eastern Oregon city, where he sees himself settling permanently.
“With everything being online now, you don’t need to be in the center of things,” he said. “You have the classic small-town feel with diners and a drive-in movie theater, but you also have the mainstream restaurants.”