Kalamazoo, Mich. — Southwest Michigan is in need of housing at all levels in order to attract and retain our working population, experts said.
A lack of housing inventory and high rent costs can inhibit a company's ability to recruit top talent into Southwest Michigan.
"Affordable housing and workforce housing is imperative to ensure our robust manufacturing, retail and service industries can continue to thrive in our region," Jared Lutz, Economic Development Attraction and Research director for Southwest Michigan First, said.
New research showed rents are going up in the region.
Rent.com has released new research on the cities across the country with the highest spike in rent and those where they are declining the most.
According to Rent.com's rental market trends for Kalamazoo as of May 24th (the data is updated constantly), the average rent for apartments in Kalamazoo is between $877 and $1,302.
For a studio apartment in Kalamazoo, the average rent is $877.
When it comes to 1-bedroom apartments, the average rent in Kalamazoo is $977.
For a 2-bedroom apartment, the average rent is $1,130.
The average rent for a 3-bedroom apartment in Kalamazoo is $1,302.
"It is an increase, but when you compare it to the national average it's actually not as bad. So that's the silver lining there. Nationally, we're seeing one and two bedroom apartments going up about 23 percent," Rent.com Managing Editor Brian Carberry said.
Carberry also said average rent in Kalamazoo is below the national average.
"That may be a sign of good news for the people in [the] area that they aren't paying as much, but it still is a rent price increase. So if a lease is about to come to an end, renters are going to have to prepare to pay more for their next lease," Carberry said.
Carberry said keep in mind, these numbers are averages.
"Some people are going to be paying more, some people that are paying less, this looks at [Kalamazoo] as a whole and puts a number in the middle," Carberry said.
Also according to this same set of date from Rent.com, the average cost of a studio apartment in Portage is $1,019 a month, while in Battle Creek a studio apartment costs $450.
Connected to affordable housing, new upper middle-class housing is also important to free up housing at lower price points.
It is encouraging to know that local developers, many of which have been in this community for decades, understand this need and are actively engaging with resources from the state and localities that help keep the costs of housing down to their end users, Lutz said.
A way to make more money on a property is to build a luxury property. Carberry said if there are more options leaning on the higher end, its not really going to help in the long run for renters-- it's going to bring the average price up in the property's area higher.
Carberry offers some advice for renters, considering as he says not a lot of landlords are willing to negotiate because there is so much competition for units.
"The best thing you can do is be ready for it," Carberry said. But he says it never hurts to ask.
Carberry suggests trying to sign a 24 month lease, if you like the area you are in and if you plan on being there for a while, to lock in the rate you have now if you think rent prices are going to continue to climb.
"A year from now, you could end up saving money because you are paying today's rates," Carberry said.
But we don't know what is going to happen-- price might dip a year from now. It's really hard to tell.
"Landlords would be happy to lock you in for two years because they know they will have that unit filled for the next 24 months," Carberry said.
Carberry also suggested you see if you can negotiate your parking space back.
"A landlord may be willing to take the spot you're giving back, and upsell it to another family-- charge a little more for that-- and they cut you a slight break. It might only be $50 a month, but that does add up," Carberry said. "Take a look at your lease and see if there is anything you truly don't need; see if the landlord has some wiggle room if you give back these amenities."
Carberry said he does think prices will continue to climb, at least modestly, over the next year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is in partnership with Southwest Michigan First. Additional stories can be found on News Channel 3's "First & 42" webpage.
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