Despite the Blight, Portland Apartment Rents Are Up and May Be Heading Higher

It’s because Stumptown is still a bargain compared with Seattle and San Francisco.

Given all the crime, trash and graffiti, and a downtown that’s been hollowed out by COVID, you’d think no one would be moving to Portland and rents would be falling.

And you’d be wrong.

Portland is still attracting new arrivals, and apartment rents are rising, because the rest of the West Coast is worse, at least in terms of cost, according to a new report from Marcus & Millichap, a real estate broker and research firm based in Calabasas, Calif.

“Portland represents a haven of lower living expenses for West Coast residents considering relocation,” Marcus & Millichap said.

As of June, the average monthly apartment rent in Portland was $350 lower than in Seattle and $940 below Northern California. That’s true even after rents in the Portland metro area jumped 13.3% to an average of $1,709 in the 12-month period ending in June.

But wait. There’s more. Rents are likely to rise 9.1% for the full year of 2022, Marcus & Millichap said, in part because apartment supply isn’t keeping up with demand. Only 3,400 new units will hit the market this year, the firm said, the lowest construction volume since 2013. But: “By year-end, Portland’s household count is expected to swell by more than 19,000.”

The rebounding job market is also putting upward pressure on rents, Marcus & Millichap said. Last week, the Oregon Employment Department said the state added 9,300 jobs in August, enough finally to recoup all the jobs lost during the pandemic. At the end of last month, Oregon’s employment stood at a record 1,974,700, the department said.

The apartment vacancy rate ticked down to 3.4% in June. Aside from the previous nine months, it was the lowest vacancy rate since the second quarter of 2015.

High-end apartments in Northwest and central Portland are the hardest to find because they are a steal compared with midtier units, the firm said. Class A apartments in the Pearl and other hipster havens go for just $170 more per month than more proletarian places, the smallest luxury gap among major metro areas.

The upshot: If you want to rent something in Portland, an extra $170 a month will go a long way. And if you’re upset about high rents, blame California and Seattle. Portlanders have been doing that for years.