Rentals scarce, but some beds remain on campus

This fall's freshman class of Oregon State University will be about the same as last year, but if those students haven't lined up on-campus housing, they're facing stiff competition for off-campus rentals.

Bob Loewen, the housing program specialist for the city of Corvallis, said the rental vacancy rate is around a half of 1 percent. International students, newly enrolled graduate students and students who moved away during the summer are expected to drive that vacancy rate even lower.

All are hoping to be settled when classes begin Sept. 26.

"When they show up, there's not going to be 100 properties or even 50 properties to look at in Corvallis," Loewen said. For example, as of Tuesday, Pinion Property Management still was accepting applications for vacancies in one property out of the 600 Corvallis properties it manages.

Such a tight market mirrors that of last year.

"As far as Corvallis goes, last year we had one vacancy when school started," said office manager Heidi Clodfelter, adding that the company expects the same when OSU classes start.

And even people who have a place to live aren't necessarily home free, to say the least. Loewen said he's heard of cases in which rent rose steeply due both to a demand for rental housing and the cost of necessary improvements to buildings. He said he's heard of $600 rentals now going for $800 and even $650 rentals going for $950.

On-campus housing isn't quite as tight. OSU is expecting to enroll about 25,000 students this fall, but the number of freshmen - who most often live on campus - isn't expected to increase. At last count, 234 beds were available.

"We look like we'd be able to accommodate anyone who's looking for housing this fall," said Eric Hanson, the associate director of University Housing and Dining Services.

More students than usual are deciding to return for another year in the residence buildings, he said. In addition, halls and floors of halls reserved for upperclassmen have been full for some time.

OSU housed 3,989 students in residence halls, cooperatives and family housing in the fall of 2010, when student enrollment was 23,761.

Would-be renters might have to venture farther than neighboring Philomath, where the rental housing market also is tight. Albany and Lebanon offer more affordable options, although they are each about 20 minutes' drive.

A bit of bright news: more three-, four- and five-bedroom houses remain on the rental market - most of them former single-family residences being rented when in the past they might have been sold. Though many of these larger houses have a hefty price tag - such as $2,500 for a five bedroom - it's manageable when the rent is divided among the students.

Loewen also suggests those in the rental market walk or ride through neighborhoods near campus and watch for owner-posted "For Rent" signs. He also said that newspaper classified ads often offer possibilities.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or



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