Census estimates point to thousands of vacant apartments

For lease signs sprout in Portland. Jason E. Kaplan For lease signs sprout in Portland.

(Update appended): According to the American Community Survey there are appoximately 352,000 rental units in the Portland metro area.

The census Housing Vacancy survey estimates a 4.8% vacancy rate for the metro area during the second quarter of 2018. 

Combining these figures would imply roughly 16,000-17,000 vacant units, said Chris Salviati, housing economist for the rental site ApartmentList, in an email. 

The community survey rental stock estimates are based on 2016 data and do not take into acccount new apartment construction over the past year and a half.  Another disclaimer: The vacancy rate includes apartments that have been rented to a tenant who has yet to move in.

Industry players are floating slightly different vacancy rates, said Mark Barry, an appraiser with Portland-based Barry & AssociatesMultifamily NW pegs the Portland rate at 4.85%; CoStar, 4.6%. The rates vary depending on which units are counted and when the counting begins.



In a city grappling with affordable housing and homeless crises, the big question is whether vacancies, which everyone agrees are rising, will continue to exert downward pressure on rents. Portland rents have already fallen 2.2% in the past year.

A 2017 count found 4,177 homeless people in Multnomah County.


UPDATED, August 3: The headline of this article has been changed. The original headline, "16,000 rental units in Portland sitting empty,"  was misleading and did not reflect the content of the story. The story explains the 16,000 figure is a statistical estimate based on multiplying the number of units in the metro area by the estimated vacancy rate. The key point is that vacancies in the metro area are rising due to new construction*, and as a result prices are declining. 

*For more context on this story, see the Editor's note posted on August 1: 16,000 Vacant Apartments, Redux.


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Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the editor of Oregon Business

16 comments

  • Tom
    Tom Monday, 06 August 2018 18:22 Comment Link

    Part of the reason rent IN TOWN are so high is that our vacancy rate is so low. It's also a big part of the reason that there are so many units being constructed. Private investment (building) goes where the money can be made (high rent). It ain't rocket surgery.

  • Tom
    Tom Monday, 06 August 2018 18:16 Comment Link

    Portland METRO area, people. READ.

    Few people want to live in Hillsboro, Gresham, Troutdale, etc.

  • Amber Crawford
    Amber Crawford Saturday, 04 August 2018 12:49 Comment Link

    Makes sense. Hold back the access to keep the demand and the prices high. Well played PDX. Well Played!

  • Jerry mccolkister
    Jerry mccolkister Wednesday, 01 August 2018 05:35 Comment Link

    If this is true then why is there a waiting list of a year on most apartments. IEither 16,000 oeople suddenly vacated their apartments or this stories info. Is wrong.

  • Linda Baker
    Linda Baker Tuesday, 31 July 2018 21:46 Comment Link

    Playground girl: Point taken about limits of this post. See link below for article describing some of the new buildings with available units. Pricing and No. bedrooms included.

    https://www.oregonbusiness.com/article/real-estate/item/18270-the-urban-gated-community

  • PlaygroundGirl
    PlaygroundGirl Tuesday, 31 July 2018 19:38 Comment Link

    Would love to see a map of where these "available" units are! My guess is that the majority are in low-end and high-end areas, with very few in the more desirable areas.

    Would also love to see the advertised/expected rents and basic description (no. of BRs, baths, sq. footage) for them.

    This would be far more meaningful than an extrapolated number with no additional information.

  • Gino Zahnd
    Gino Zahnd Tuesday, 31 July 2018 16:00 Comment Link

    I wrote this in 2016 about rent in Portland, and what we're seeing according to this article is the beginning of the market clearing. Turns out economic law holds true.

    https://medium.com/gino/portland-rent-control-isnt-the-answer-5d2ce38d86a1

  • mel perry
    mel perry Tuesday, 31 July 2018 14:23 Comment Link

    and what are they charging for rent? anothrer made up
    realator story

  • William Waters
    William Waters Tuesday, 31 July 2018 11:27 Comment Link

    If Portland looked South to the Bay Area they'll see their future.

    Rent control, fewer units available. Sky high rents, grid lock, more homeless.
    Weak government.

    All due to the lack of understanding how every good thought is probably wrong.


    Deep thinkers need apply.

  • Chris
    Chris Tuesday, 31 July 2018 08:39 Comment Link

    Current national vacancy rate for apartments appears to be 4.7%. Do you have a different source for the 6.9 - 7.5 % figure?

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSL3N1R95E5

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