You’re almost as likely to die in a car crash as you are to find a place to rent in Bloomington.
While the average American stands a 1 in 112 lifetime chance of perishing in a vehicle accident, according to the National Safety Council, a would-be renter in Bloomington has only about a 1 in 100 chance of finding a vacancy.
A recent rental survey by the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) found vacancy rates so low as to be almost microscopic in some market segments.
The vacancy rate for efficiency apartments in Bloomington is 0.6 percent. For one-bedroom rentals, it’s 1.12 percent; for two-bedrooms, it’s 1.9 percent. For three-bedroom and larger rental properties, the vacancy rate is 0.86 percent.
Meanwhile, rents are rising, especially for one-bedroom places. The average rent for a one-bedroom rental has shot up 30 percent since 2011, to $985 a month. Efficiency rates are up 14 percent and two-bedrooms are up 12 percent.
It’s not like the city offers only a handful of rental properties. In fact, Bloomington has about 11,300 rental units, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which is about 31 percent of the city’s housing stock.
So, what’s causing the tight rental market? In part, it’s a holdover from the housing crash, said HRA Administrator Doug Grout.
“Nationally, the homeownership rate used to be upwards of 70 percent, and I think what you’re seeing is, the new normal is going to be below 65 percent,” he said. In addition, he said, developers are loading their apartment complexes with more amenities: health-club-quality workout facilities, pools, social events. That makes renting a more attractive option, not only to millennials but also to empty nesters.
And as a mature suburb, Bloomington also lacks a big supply of developable land.
“It’s a landlord’s market, across the board,” Grout said. “Bloomington is a desirable place to live, and for the most part, people are happy to be living here.
“It’s just hard to find a place sometimes.”