Population increase causes rents to soar

By Adrian Stewart

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Off-campus rents are skyrocketing, and will continue to rise for several years to come, because thousands of people are moving to Tucson.

"Our landlord raised the rent $100 right before we moved in last August," said Steve Campodonico, who lives with three other students in a four-bedroom, university-area house. The rent is $750 per month and Campodonico's share, with utilities, averages $250 per month.

Average rent in Tucson increased 7.1 percent last year more than twice the rate of inflation. The average monthly rent has gone up $50 over the last four years, according to data from Marketing Strategies.

"Dorms normally increase at the same rate as inflation," said Tanya Behr, the Residence Hall Association representative from Gila Hall. "Next year's increase will be around 3 percent ($75 per student, per hall)."

Residence hall rates range from $1,580 for a quad in Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall to $3,755 for a single-person room in La Paz Residence Hall (the new hall currently under construction).

Last year, 21,000 people moved to Tucson, pushing the metropolitan population over 750,000 people, according to city planning department data.

All those new residents capped a three-year trend that resulted in the lowest vacancy rates in more than a decade. City-wide, the average vacancy rate last year was 4 percent, down from 10 percent five years ago.

University-area landlord Chris Maglione did even better finding tenants for his properties.

"I had a near-zero percent vacancy rate last year," he said. "One apartment out of my 88 units was vacant for one month. Everything else was full, even in the summer."

Some students feel obligated to rent through the summer in order to guarantee a place to live in the fall, said Joe Millstone, real estate specialist with CB Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Services.

Construction is booming in response to the market, but only for higher-priced units in the Foothills and Oro Valley areas, said Jim Briggs, investment specialist at Grubb & Ellis.

Briggs said he expects that 5,000 to 7,000 luxury apartments will be built in 1995. "Luxury apartments are $600 or more for a one bedroom apartment," he said. "These units are the kind with 750 square feet or more, a washer/dryer, a fireplace and private garage."

Since most students can't afford that kind of rent, vacancy rates will continue to be low and rents will get even higher, Millstone said.

"When someone wants to build apartments, I do the math for them based on mid

current rents," Millstone said. "These days, it just doesn't add up unless it's a luxury complex."

"Rents will have to go up for several years before $400 apartments are a profitable investment," Millstone said.

On campus, the university is building a new dormitory, La Paz Hall, south of Hopi Hall, that will house around 500 residents, Behr said.

Meanwhile, more people are moving in to town. City planners predict that thousands of people will move to Tucson in 1995, possibly more than in 1994.

"Population growth follows economic booms," said David Taylor, of the city planning department. "When the economy is good in Tucson, people move here."

Four years ago, during the recession, landlords had to give away microwaves, waive first month's rent and offer to pay all utilities in order to rent their units, one local landlord said.

Today, almost no apartment complexes offer bonuses to prospective renters, according to a monthly apartment guide.

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