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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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