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HOUSTON-Camden Property Trust continued seeing a slight downturn during Q1 2009, with same-property NOI declining 3.8% year-over-year and same-property revenue dropping slightly by 0.5%. Still, cautiously optimistic executives pointed to a slightly better than expected performance in the first quarter.

Camden’s chairman and CEO Ric Campo said the company’s cost-control measures, including reductions in head count from development, were likely the reason for the results. What also helped on the liquidity end was the lack of acquisitions or development starts. With Camden Dulles Station in Oak Hill, VA completed, the company has no more material obligations left to fund.

The only operating property under contract is for sale, and it’s the 671-unit Camden West Oaks in Houston, which Campo said is under contract at a cap rate just above 7%. “We received $2 million in hard money, and should close in June,” Campo said. He added that there could be more assets on the market by the end of the year, depending on the economy.

The quarter also saw Camden hard at work trying to pay off maturing debt and continuing to strengthen its balance sheet. The company retired $50.5 million of secured mortgage debt and $40 million of unsecured medium-term notes, relying on proceeds from an unsecured line of credit. A recently acquired $420 million secured credit facility, had been used to repay outstanding balances on its $600 million unsecured line of credit and to retire even more debt. “We currently don’t have any more balances on that line of credit, and the scheduled upcoming maturities are very manageable,” Campo said.

D. Keith Oden, Camden’s president and trust manager, said more good news for the multifamily owner and operator was that occupancy slid above 94% for the first time in 12 weeks. He couldn’t comment as to whether the increase was due to more use of concessions, but acknowledged that it could be possible.

“Our pricing reflects what our competitors are doing,” he commented. “Concessions are a factor in the equation. Not the main factor, but it gets into the mix at some point.”

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