by Becky Hurley, Colorado Springs Business Journal
Published: May 29,2009
It doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict that soldiers will come, and they will go – especially during war time.
About 3,000 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team moving to the Pikes Peak region from Fort Hood and returning from Iraq have begun to arrive. Many have visited their newly assigned post and have scouted around for a place to live, said Laura Russman, executive director for the Apartment Association of the Pikes Peak Region.
At the same time, 3,000 or so of their fellow soldiers assigned to Fort Carson will leave during June and July for Iraq and Afghanistan.
This see-saw scenario is a familiar one, especially for area landlords. One minute multifamily owners are tilting optimistically toward the prospect of increased occupancies, and the next, they’re waiting for the ship-out “boot” to drop.
Push and pull
So how does this constant in-and-out activity accompanied by economic uncertainty affect apartment owners in and around local military installations?
Based on a first quarter 2009 Apartment Vacancy and Rent Survey, the Colorado Department of Housing and Denver University economist Dr. Gordon Von Stroh said Colorado Springs saw an overall 11.7 percent vacancy rate.
A similar survey completed by Apartment Insights determined the average local vacancy rate stood at about 9.9 percent. The difference probably is attributable to the state’s inclusion of all for-rent complexes of 10 units or more. The AI report covers only apartment communities of 50 units or larger.
“The smaller complexes also tend to be older – maybe built 30 or 40 years ago,” Russman said. “Most Fort Carson soldiers can make at least $1,200 or $1,300 in a housing allowance. That allows them to rent newer apartments with more amenities.”
The good news: many soldiers prefer renting apartments or homes off post because if they have money left over, they can spend it on other things. “If they live at Fort Carson, their entire allowance has to go to pay for where they live,” she said.
And most stay geographically close to their assigned unit.
Good and bad
Kelley Crance-Agnew, manager of the 208-unit Village at Westmeadow, just outside the gate at Fort Carson, said the complex is more than 96 percent leased. That’s up from less than 90 percent during January.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” she said, referring to the community’s location at Fort Carson’s front door. “When the troops come in, we’re one of the first places they hit. We can sign 20 or 30 leases in a week’s time. But when they get their orders, they’re gone. Last year, within six weeks’ time, we had 45 soldiers vacate. But you get used to it – and budget accordingly. And we do see a full 100 percent turnover each year – that’s even more than in (college) student towns.”
Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, which has more than 30,000 students, reported falling, rather than rising vacancies for the quarter. Continue reading