TULSA, Okla. — Rent prices in Tulsa and the surrounding communities are climbing, and residents are looking for relief and the reason behind the rent hikes.
The Tulsa Apartment Association says since 2021, rental rates on average jumped more than 13%.
Renters like Felipe Campos are seeing the increase firsthand. He’s lived in a condo that he rents from the owner for five years.
He says the fees, over the last few months, have been steadily increasing.
“Five months ago, the owner’s association increased like $80 one day and then an additional $30 the other day,” Campos said.
He’s a ride-share driver seeing higher prices at both the gas station and grocery store. He says it’s been a difficult time all around.
“It’s impacting me very hard. Right now, I’ve living check by check,” he said.
Tulsans on average are seeing a 13.5% increase in rental prices.
“Just as all of us as consumers have seen the prices increase with everything, that’s what we’re experiencing on the rental housing side as well,” said Keri Cooper, the Executive Director of the Tulsa Apartment Association.
Cooper says the data shows in February 2021, the average rental at 838 square feet was going for $765. In February 2022, that same rental was going for $869.
“The operation cost for owning and operating rental housing is increasing,” Cooper said.
Complexes are paying more for almost everything including property taxes, insurance, replacing appliances and buying supplies.
“A lot of their labor and material costs are going up 20 to 30%,” she said.
The competitive housing market has forced many people to stay in apartments longer. Cooper says we’re also seeing more people move to Tulsa which adds competition for apartments and rental homes, but Tulsa lost a lot of rental homes during the pandemic, leading to a shortage of inventory.
Overall, Cooper says there are several factors that are making it more difficult to get into an apartment home and making that apartment home more expensive.
“It’s definitely not seeing as big of increases as we’re hearing about in other markets, and Tulsa still is one of the most affordable cities to live in,” she said.
Heidi Blackshaw is the regional portfolio supervisor for Lynco Properties. She manages six Tulsa properties with 1,600 units in total.
“I’ve been doing this almost 30 years. Since COVID hit in 2020 everything has changed,” Blackshaw said.
“It wasn’t until late ’21 that we started with renewals increasing prices again and unfortunately that’s just the economy that we’re in,” she said.
“Last year, I could buy a refrigerator to replace a refrigerator for $500 dollars."
Between the pandemic, inflation, and supply chain issues, complexes have had to raise rent to keep up.
“Yesterday, I bought one I had to pay $700 for. The cost of everything has gone up, flooring, appliances, parts.”
Blackshaw says despite increases, the goal is to keep renters in their homes.
“The cost to turn the apartment has doubled and then I have to re-market that apartment and move someone else in,” Blackshaw said.
“So it’s absolutely cheaper for me to keep them. It’s cheaper for me to help them pay their rent or find a way to pay their rent and get caught back up than it is for me to have them leave and start all over.”
Lynco Properties has taken steps to make sure people who can’t pay are connected to resources that can help.
“As things went by the last seven or eight months, I’ve been struggling paying my rent by myself, but I’ve been keeping up.”
2 News Oklahoma’s Naomi Keitt met one woman at a resource fair at Stoneridge at 36th. She didn’t want to be identified because she was embarrassed by her situation.
She made it through the pandemic OK, but then her friend who was helping cover rent died. She didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills.
“I just need a little help with my rent and hopefully I’m going to get back on my feet.”
She’s lived at Stoneridge for 11 years and says a second job should help her stay afloat.
“I don’t want to move. I like where I live at, and I want to keep staying here.”
This woman knew she needed help and got it, but embarrassment sometimes keeps people from reaching out for assistance. Jeff Jaynes, the Executive Director of Restore Hope, saw this firsthand.
“For two years now, we have had people who have never had to ask for help before, that are now in the process of needing help,” Jaynes said. “We wanted to put a system in place so that when those big dollars are gone that our community is still there to wrap around and help folks."
Over the last two years, they’ve had 33,000 applications for their emergency rental assistance program. While they’ve stopped accepting new applications for rental help, they’ve been working to put permanent solutions in place.
Jaynes says their Housing Stability Partners help families in many ways:
- Legal aid that helps fight evictions
- Free services in legal information for both landlords and tenants
- Financial empowerment programs and policies
“The best thing in a crisis is that you can go to your savings account and that you have a savings account and that you can answer that crisis with your own resources. That’s honestly what we all want,” Jaynes said.
The Tulsa Apartment Association has also pinpointed a fix. Cooper says we need about 3,000 more units a year across Oklahoma.
“From rental homes to apartments, we definitely need more of that available from what we lost and what we still need to build to keep up with population and also this growing demand for living in rental housing,” Cooper said.
Cooper says with more units, we can meet demand easing the dual burden of increased costs and high occupancy. Renters like Campos just want to see prices even out.
“I have to do whatever I can to pay my bills,” said Campos.
If you’re looking for assistance, the best first call to make is 211 or visit 211 Eastern Oklahoma's website. They can connect you with resources across the area. The Osage Nation Financial Department has also expanded their Emergency Rental Assistance Program to Osages throughout the country. You can visit the Osage Nation's website to apply for assistance.
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