Rents are skyrocketing across Tulsa as the city faces a shortage of affordable housing | local news
As the housing shortage has driven up costs nationwide, rents in south Tulsa have risen more than 19% over the past year and are expected to rise further in 2022, according to the city’s latest data.
The rest of Tulsa also saw higher rents, with monthly rates rising about 12% citywide, officials said, but South Tulsa was the part of the city that was keeping up with a national trend. According to recent surveys, rents increased 19.3% between December 2020 and December 2021 in the 50 largest US metro areas, which includes Tulsa.
“It’s supply and demand,” explained Kristin Maun, director of housing and incentives at the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity.
Typically, about 10% of Tulsa’s rental units are vacant at any given time. But last year, the vacancy rate has fallen to just 5%, or sometimes even lower, Maun said.
“That means there were only a few units available,” she said. “With high demand and low supply, rental prices start to rise.”
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Even before the recent increases, 46% of Tulsa’s renter households — or about 35,000 families — were “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, Maun said.
“It’s a problem that doesn’t just affect our low-income families,” she said. “It affects people across a wide range of income brackets. It’s just having a bigger impact on our low-income households.”
Dramatic as they seem, Tulsa’s rent increases pale in comparison to the jumps in some other cities. Nowhere has the jump been bigger than in Miami, Florida, where rents have risen 49.8% over the past year.
Several other cities, including Tampa, Orlando, San Diego, Las Vegas, Austin, and Memphis, saw spikes of more than 25%.
Landlords, both national and local, say they have no choice but to raise rents to cover their own skyrocketing costs.
“Just as most of us are seeing an increase in the cost of things we buy, housing providers are also seeing higher costs for the products and services they need to maintain homes for their residents,” said Keri Cooper, general manager of the Tulsa Apartment Association.
In particular, inflation has pushed up the cost of kitchen appliances, insurance and labor, Cooper said.
“Housing providers are raising salaries for employees,” she said, “not only to ensure they retain their current employees, but also to remain competitive and attract new people to the industry.”
Increasing demand is “also a factor,” Cooper said.
“The industry has to keep up,” she said. “However, producing enough new rental housing to meet demand will require new approaches to development, more incentives and fewer restrictions.”
Tulsa’s incentives include the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which provides 10-year interest-free loans to provide gap funding for affordable housing development.
Normally, rising rents alone would provide an incentive for developers to build more rental units. But higher construction costs appear to deter investors, officials said.
Wood prices, for example, rose by 377% compared to the previous year. And many landlords said they were selling properties due to financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, further reducing the availability of rental units in the market, said Becky Gligo, executive director of Housing Solutions, a nonprofit that fights homelessness in Tulsa .
“Many things are contributing to this increase in rates,” Gligo said. “We’ve seen a lot of people move to Tulsa. And that’s great, because our city is growing. But it also means you have a greater shortage of available rental units.”