Apartment owners face challenge

Occupancy rates plummet as pipeline workers leave Craig area

The exodus of pipeline workers is a challenge for Craig apartment owners who are looking for ways to maintain occupancy rates.

Supply, they said, is ahead of demand, and that's making the economics of the business problematic.

Also clouding their business outlooks, one landlord said, are plans for adding more units to the local housing market.

"I don't see the demand," said John Barr, president of the Yampa Valley Landlord Association. "We've been discussing that at our landlord meetings."

Sandy Bare at Timber Glen Apartments, 3465 Douglas St., agrees.

"We have 29 vacancies now," she said. "We jut lost six more to pipeline workers leaving, and with 19 more apartments coming back open after last year's fire, we have 54 empty units for rent."

Other apartment complexes in Craig don't have as many vacancies, several local landlords said at the association meeting. But many have a few units they'd like to fill.

"Things will pick up in the spring and summer," Bare said. "Winter is always slow."

Landlords also said that the number of empty units is keeping rent down.

"There's always someone who will rent to them for less," Barr said.

Concern about rent was evident at the meeting.

Citing 2005 data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, they noted that, on average, a two-bedroom apartment in Meeker rents for $150 more than in Craig. In Hayden, renters pay $200 more, according to the statistics. In Craig, a two-bedroom apartment rents for an average price of $538, according to the data.

Barr also said rents sometimes are kept low because units aren't properly maintained.

He noted that, in some cases, owners have had problems with absentee managers who would let problems compound. The result was devastating to the buildings and surrounding neighborhoods, he said.

"We were having people rebuilding car engines in their living rooms," he said. "One rental had a deer butchered on the back porch. Motorcycles were being worked on inside apartments, and pets were out of control. We rescued hamsters from dryer vents and ferrets trapped in walls."

The landlord organization, he said, has taken a get-tough attitude.

"Even landlords can be kicked out of the association if they don't take care of their complexes," he said. "You gotta be a strong-willed person and let the tenants know 'It's going to be my way.'"

The association patrols complexes across town, especially on weekends and holidays. They always ride double with cell phones ready. If they see a problem, they call police.

"We work closely with the police department," Barr said. "We're an extra set of eyes and ears for them."

The landlord association, he said, is trying to make a difference in Craig's housing market.

"We've been trying to make landlords and tenants more aware of what's going on around them," Barr said. "We're trying to make Craig a better place."

Association members are required to get applications from potential renters. Next, they make background checks on applicants through the national crime computer, local police and credit agencies.

"It's 90 percent education," Barr said about the association's work. "We're here for the people, not just us."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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