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DENVER-The average multifamily rental vacancy rate for Colorado, outside of the Denver metro area, rose to 4.5% at the end of September, up from 3.2% at the end of February, according to a survey by the Colorado Division of Housing. Gordon Von Stroh, a University of Denver Business Professor, conducts a statewide survey of apartments for the housing division twice a year.

The average rent for the state rose 4.25% to $785. The Colorado Multi-Family Housing Rental and Vacancy Survey tracks vacancies and rental costs for 21 housing markets outside of the Denver metro area. That means a renter needs an annual income of $31,500, or $15.15 per hour, to afford the average rent.

Both the ski resort communities of Aspen and Summit County showed vacancy rates of 4.4%, the highest since Von Stroh started the survey in 1995.

Tom Hart, director of the Colorado Division of Housing, says he thinks that the rises are due to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 and the subsequent drop in tourism and travel. Hart says that ski resorts appear to be expecting fewer tourists this year. That means the ski resorts will hire fewer people. And retailers and restaurants also will need fewer people.

In the past decade, a shortage of workers in the ski areas has been a major problem.

But Hart cautions it may be too early to draw any firm conclusions.

Jamie Fitzpatrick, of the Denver-based Corum Group, has built or managed about 1,500 units in the mountains. Fitzpatrick says he has seen no softening of demand for either subsidized or market-rate apartments. He says that may change if construction slows, as construction workers rent many apartments during the summer months.

In any case, the rural and ski areas of Colorado haven’t been hit as hard as the Denver metro area.

An earlier report by Von Stroh shows the third-quarter apartment vacancy rate for the Denver area at an 11-year high of 6.8%.

The rural areas, for the most part, still have extremely low vacancies. Durango, for example, has only a 0.9% vacancy rate, the lowest in the state. Colorado Springs’ vacancy rate was 5.4%, the highest it has been since it was 5.7% in the first quarter of 1999. But for the two previous quarters it stood at 2.8%.

”A general rule of thumb is that a 5% vacancy rate is a market at equilibrium,” Von Stroh tells GlobeSt.com. ”Colorado Springs is only slightly above that, although it is substantially higher than where it’s been for the past year. If you take Colorado Springs out of the equation, almost all of the rural areas have vacancy rates below 5%.”

Von Stroh says the same national and international forces hammering Denver’s economy are buffeting Colorado Springs.

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