Lack of apartment availability in Bakersfield, influenced by several factors

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — According to the U.S Census Bureau about 384,000 people live in the city of Bakersfield, with over 17,000 apartment complexes. Yet the search for an available place to rent remains a challenge.  

Everything, from the pandemic to Los Angelinos moving north for lower rent prices has affected the lack of availability here in Bakersfield.

According to the Wall Street Journal, it would take the United States 5.5 million additional units to recover from the housing crisis. That’s 500,000 units every year for the next 11 years.

But how did we get here? According to Andy Fuller, president of Fuller Apartment Homes (Park Square at Seven Oaks, Villa Mondavi, Polo Villas, Park West at Stockdale River Ranch) the housing crisis began in 2008-2009 with the great recession.

Fuller said “we didn’t build our first community again until 2013 after the great financial crisis, and then things started to recover, until 2019 into early 2020, and then once again, COVID kicks in, things stopped.”

Though most can agree the pandemic acted as the catalyst for the current housing crisis, several factors are influencing the lack of availability here in Bakersfield.  

Scott Knoeb, President of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors said, “one of the biggest drivers of the housing supply shortage is because of the pandemic AND people being able to work from home. We’ve got people coming in from LA, Sacramento, San Diego, out of state even, and if they are moving in California and want to get out of the big cities … Bakersfield is one of the top places that they are going.”  

During the pandemic, we saw rent prices drop at historic levels in places like Los Angeles and New York, research tells us that here in Bakersfield rents were increasing, by almost 2%, preventing some from affording units in town.   

Rob Warnock, a senior research associate with Apartment List said, “the price decline that happened after the pandemic was brief. It was just a matter of a month or two and then since then rent prices have been increasing quite quickly, in many cases faster than we’ve ever seen them climb before.”  

The rules of supply and demand tell us that when inventory is low, and demand is high, landlords can command more money. So why wouldn’t more developers just come to Bakersfield and build homes?  

According to Fuller, the price of lumber has increased so dramatically, almost five times the normal price that builders are hesitant, he said that “until things normalize…projects will be stalled.”

Some homeowners have a negative outlook on apartments being built in their neighborhoods and that poses a unique roadblock for new construction. 

NIMBY groups, short for “Not in My Back Yard,” are given a chance to protest new construction (typically because they associate them with transient or low-income individuals) occasionally resulting in denied proposals for developers.   

Paul Johnson, planning director for the city of Bakersfield said that the public is notified of new construction and “because there is a change, the public has the opportunity to come out and speak their mind on the different uses being proposed.”  

With Senate Bills 6, 7 and AB 571 proposed to address this growing problem, Fuller is confident that we will see improvements in supply sooner than expected.   

He said “I think it’ll probably take a year, year and a half for things to normalize, and then I think you’re going to start to see a supply response. I know that we have another project planned, with the Bolthouse organization but we are waiting for essentially, the time to be right to move on that again.”  

Numerous factors play a role when it comes to the challenge renters are facing in Bakersfield. However, everyone can be a part of the solution, as the fix requires a team effort approach from our community. 

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