Cost of living high in a boom town - Odessa American: Lifestyle

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Cost of living high in a boom town

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Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:00 pm, Fri Aug 31, 2012.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve managed to snag an apartment in Odessa, you might not be feeling so lucky once it’s time to renew your lease.

Many apartment residents across town have been feeling the adverse effects of the oil boom, as the more of their paychecks go toward the increasing costs of their rent.

That’s what’s happening to Monica and Ruben Madrid, who moved to Odessa from New York City last July.

The Madrids recently renewed the lease of their 1,120 square foot, two-bedroom apartment at the Tuscany at Faudree Apartments for another eight months.

Originally priced at $1,375 per month, the Madrids had a $200 increase on their rent when they renewed.

With renter’s insurance, sewer, garbage and water expenses, the Madrids pay around $1,700 to $1,800 a month to live in the apartment complex, Monica Madrid said.

When the Odessa Chamber of Commerce last surveyed apartment rates last July, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $733. Overall, average rent was $692, only a $70 increase from the overall rent average of $622 in July 2010.

Elsewhere in Texas, the average price of rent is less than what the Madrids are paying.

ALN Apartment Data gathers the average price of rent monthly and reported that the average price of rent in Texas was $800 in April.

In Abilene, rent averaged $596 with a 92.4 percent occupancy rate. In Dallas, rent was $832 with a 92.5 percent occupancy rate. Austin topped the list with an average rent of $911 with a 94.6 percent occupancy rate.

Ruben Madrid called the Odessa rent prices and rent increase “price gouging.”

“I believe the real-estate industry is taking advantage of people coming here to work and (tenants) have no choice but to pay that price,” Monica Madrid said.

When the couple and their now 18-month-old daughter were first looking for apartments in the area, Monica Madrid said she thought they would be paying an average of $500 to $700 a month.

When they saw the price of rent, the couple tried to look for a house. But Ruben Madrid’s high student loans prevented them from getting approved for a mortgage.

The couple was relegated to signing a lease at Tuscany.

Monica Madrid said their rent in Odessa is on par with what the couple was paying for their two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, but without the big city activities.

“For living in a city like Odessa and coming where I came from, it’s ridiculous. It’s too much,” Monica Madrid said. “There’s nothing to do as opposed to living in New York or San Antonio, bigger cities with things to do.”

Elsewhere in town, other apartment residents were also experiencing high rent increases.

On the Odessa American Facebook page, followers were asked if their rent has increased within the last six months.

More than 80 comments were left, speaking of the same renewal increases as the Madrids experienced.

“We’ve had ours raised $200 within the past year. They are only allowing (six) month leases, instead of 12, so that they can raise the rent every (six) months! It’s highway robbery!” Kyla Donnell wrote. “We are NOT getting a raise every (six) months, and not all of us are making ‘oilfield’ money.”

Another commenter spoke about the more than $400 increased difference in renting within the last eight years.

“I went back through my paperwork and in 2004 I was (paying) $280 for a (one-bedroom apartment) at Woodview and I will (now) be paying $697 for a one bedroom at the Woodlands,” Grisel Galindo said. “My the times have changed and rent has increased drastically.”

Monica Madrid said she contacted Tuscany’s corporate office, Weidner Apartments, but was told that rent prices are just a sign of the market.

“If you go somewhere else, you’re going to be waiting three months. They said they had somebody to replace us,” Monica Madrid said. “I called the city, and there are no tenants’ rights in the price increase. There are no rules or anything like that.”

Brenda Huffty, regional director of Weidner Apartments in Midland, said that while she understands that not everyone can afford rent increases, the apartment management company has to compete in the housing market.

“I understand that not all people are in the oilfield. Unfortunately that type of boom has turned the city around, but you still have to compete,” Huffty said. “It’s not price gouging. We’re competing in the market and we too are faced with price increases for manpower.”

Huffty said that because rent is subject to market trends, rent is also susceptible to decreasing if the economy struggles.

Only five states have rent control laws, according to the National Multi Housing Council. In Texas, property owners determine rent, which is usually market driven, according to the Texas Apartment Association.

“State law provides that the only situations in which you could have a rent control measure would be if there is a natural disaster or general civil disturbance that is going on. They are very clear about that within the law,” David Mintz of the TAA said.

Moreover, Michael Marrero, Assistant City Manager of Odessa, said that the city does “not have the authority” to impose rent limits.

Laura Williams, ALN Data Collection Vice President of Business Development, said that property owners increasing their rent up to $200 is typical in a boom economy.

“If it’s supply and demand, and they have a wait list, they can do whatever they want to do,” Williams said. “Normally it’s reasonable they take into account the history of the renter, but everybody has their own increase calculator.”

Huffty said that while property owners price rent based on competitors’ prices, Weidner does offer renewal incentives, such as carpet cleaning or lower rent, to keep long-term residents.

Monica Madrid said her family might be moving within the next year or two because of their expense of living compared to their standard of living.

“We could live in another city and pay the same and having things to do,” Monica Madrid said. “We were done with the New York life, and we wanted to move somewhere low-scale and family oriented, and we expected to pay a lot less.

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