Rental market tightens

The rental market in Kitsap is tight.

But what exactly does that mean?

Ever try to cram too many people in an elevator?

This is what’s happening to today’s rental market, say observers. The number of apartments is too limited for the number of renters, and a lot of people are on the outside looking in.

“We’re getting a lot of calls,” said Dennis Sines, manager of Central Park Apartments near the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. “We have three (vacancies), with 30 units total. One-bedroom apartments are $450 and two-bedrooms are $550.”

Other apartment managers tell similar tales.

“We’ve got 107 units and we’re fairly full,” said Gary Radke, manager of Crosspointe Apartments on Cranberry Lane N.W. in Silverdale. “We have one apartment empty. It’s been like this for the last year.”

Crosspointe charges $650 for one bedroom and $750 for two.

Bremerton landlord Jim Adrian, vice president of PROA and long-time member, said he’s been studying the situation and has a complex theory of about 10 points as to why rents are tight, and why bad times — too many empty rentals — lie on the horizon:

l Low interest rates. Rates are middling now, Adrian said, but as they move down, more people take advantage of getting loans to buy homes that are fixer-uppers. These homes used to house one or more units for rentals. They’re slowly evaporating.

l “Over the last five or six years a lot of older rentals, went under the bulldozer as PSNS put in more parking and the Gateway Project at the south end of the community was mostly finished.” More than 250 units disappeared. This had a spreading effect throughout the county, Adrian said.

l When the sewer plant in Bremerton was installed, existing housing, mostly rentals, was razed. Former tenants often moved out of down.

l In 1997, Kona Village “affordable” rental housing went up in flames. Hundreds lost their homes, making rentals tighter in an ever-widening radius around Bremerton.

l “And the Navy’s presence has a pretty good effect right now. It all makes a difference,” Adrian said.

l “In 1991-97, the feds enacted a hiring freeze at all bases. In 1997-98 many employees started retiring. The yard hired 800 people. Many were well-paid career types who could afford houses. They also bought fixer-uppers and dumped more renters out of their homes.

l People are getting fed up in Seattle. There were 30,000 jobs lost at Boeing. I think we’re seeing immigration from Seattle because it’s cheaper to live over here ... if you can find a place.”

l On the other side of the coin, “Certain people are feeling optimistic about Bremerton’s future ... a lot of California money is coming up here and buying property that used to hold at least some rental housing.”

Adrian wouldn’t swear he was right on every point. And he warned there are “storm clouds” on the horizon.

“I hope Keyport doesn’t close. And ships may be leaving. It’s a one industry town — and we’re dependent on it,” Adrian said.

Other members of the rental owners industry made similar points to Adrian’s.

PROA is a subsidiary of the Washington Apartment Owners Association. PROA’s 450 members come from Kitsap and Mason county and a few from Port Angeles in Clallam County.

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