When I reluctantly left Denver in the summer of 2011, I had it pretty good. I was living in a modest one-bedroom apartment just west of Wash Park. I had a parking space, decent neighbors, and a couple of good bars nearby. When I moved in, rent was $595. When I left it had gone up to $625, but still, I made it work. Chances are I wouldn’t even recognize the rent on my old place, and there’s a solid possibility that I could no longer afford to live there.
Denverites know exactly what I’m talking about. Rent prices have gone through the roof, due in large part to historically low vacancy rates. By the end of 2013 rent prices were as high as they’d ever been. Last September, National Journal wondered whether high rental prices would prevent young adults from moving to the city. In December, a salty Reddit thread (language NSFW) talked about how messy the situation is all over the metro area, but especially in Denver.
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Well we knew rent was going up, but in fact, Denver rents are increasing faster than anywhere else in the country, edging out places like San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle.
This report, published by the Associated Press, is counting what it calls the “effective rent,” which includes concessions like landlords giving folks a free month’s rent on move in (that’s why other numbers, such as those published by the Denver Post earlier this year, are different). And although the rents have a long way to go before they reach the absurdity that is the San Francisco rental market, these rapid increases have real-world impacts. The higher rental prices, combined with an increase in home prices, is creating a situation where many can’t afford to rent or buy. That forces people to try and hang on to where they are or leave the area altogether.
So now, four years after I left my hometown, I find myself writing about rising rents in Denver, and what things are like when regular folks can’t afford to live there anymore. I now live in San Francisco, and can tell you that this is not where Denver wants to find itself.