Too hot to enter his apartment, which had a broken air conditioner, DJ Griffin sat in his car with the windows rolled down to catch a late afternoon breeze. But the parking lot was not very comfortable either. Garbage was piled up next to the fence. Knee-high weeds grew along the sidewalk. And the Stonebrook apartment complex itself seemed almost deserted, with shuttered windows and ripped off bits of siding.
“I’m over this place,” Griffin said. “I’m done with it.”
Griffin was notified a week ago that he will soon have to move to have his unit renovated. And when it’s ready to be occupied again, the rent will triple, Griffin said, he was told.
“I had already looked for another place, anyway,” he said with a shrug. But he just can’t find a vacant apartment to rent.
“At this point,” Griffin said, “I could sleep in my car.”
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Tulsa’s rental occupancy rate is over 95%, pushing rents to record highs, according to local housing officials. By some estimates, the average Tulsa apartment now rents for $904 a month, down from $838 at the start of the year.
“People have nowhere to go,” said Shandi Campbell, director of the Landlord Tenant Resource Center in Tulsa, “especially if they have any housing barriers,” such as a previous eviction or criminal record.
“Anything landlords might look for in a background check becomes a hindrance,” Campbell said. “It’s hard for anyone to get a second chance right now.”
Stonebrook, a low-rent complex near 41st Street and East 130th Avenue, epitomizes the local housing crisis, officials said. Most tenants have already left as the resort stopped renewing leases to make way for renovations. And most of the remaining tenants will have to leave by November or December, officials said.
When the renovations are complete, current tenants will almost certainly not be able to afford to move in again. Many of them are several months behind on rent as it is, officials said.
An executive owner of the complex declined to comment, except to note that property managers are working with local agencies to help tenants find alternative places to live.
Rents are skyrocketing across the country. Rents rose, on average, 19.3% last year in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, including Tulsa, according to national surveys.
Nowhere has faced bigger jumps than Miami, Florida, where rents soared 50% last year. Several other cities, including Tampa, Orlando, San Diego, Las Vegas, Austin and Memphis, saw spikes of more than 25%.
Tulsa, by comparison, remains quite affordable, with the average rent rising “only” 12% in the past year, officials said. But that’s no comfort to people who were already stretching to pay their rent.
Even before the recent increases, 46% of Tulsa’s renter households — or about 35,000 families — were “cost-loaded,” meaning they spent more than 30% of their income on housing, according to data from the town.
“Housing costs just overwhelm people,” Campbell said.
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