Can you afford to live in these new Fort Worth apartments?
The Fort Worth area has a tremendous shortage of apartments, and dozens of new complexes are under construction to meet the growing demand as the area's population and job market boom.
But almost all of the apartments are being built for people who can afford quartz countertops, rooftop bars, concierge service for Amazon deliveries and remote-controlled stoves.
Almost nothing is being built for working class folks or recent college graduates moving to the area for an entry-level job.
Since 2010, 16,460 apartment units have been built in the Fort Worth area, according to RealPage, a real estate data company. But only 4 percent of these new units — a lowly 710 apartments — are now priced below the area's average rent price of $1,093 per month.
A whopping 15,750 of these brand new units are being rented for above the average range.
Some of these places feature views of downtown Fort Worth and access to the Trinity River and jogging trails. And they're renting for $1,900, $2,400 or even $4,000 per month.
And apparently these landlords have no problem finding tenants. About 94 percent of apartments are occupied across the Dallas-Fort Worth region, according to ApartmentData.com, and in cities such as Fort Worth and Arlington, the occupancy is almost 100 percent.
"Fort Worth is becoming known for luxury apartments. It's definitely something we started noticing on the rise about 10 years ago," said Adam Stahl, whose family owns the Dorothy Lane Apartments, which are known for their affordability and cater to students at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Why is this happening?
The main reason is that when apartment developers borrow money to build their projects, the banks or investors want to get the best return possible per square foot — and that's easier to do when you're renting to tenants with a six-figure salary.
"Developers are searching for the highest rate of return, so they're going to be choosing projects that earn that money, particularly in an area with a limited availability of land and a tight construction labor market," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
He said another factor is that a larger part of the population is seeking a luxurious rental lifestyle. He said part of the trend can be traced to the increasing income inequality between rich and poor in the United States. (The rich are getting richer, and many of them wish to rent a lavish pad rather than own a McMansion.)
Also, many cities are hesitant to approve zoning and building permits for multifamily housing unless the projects will add dramatically to their tax base by bringing in residents with lots of disposable income. High-end apartment complexes with coffee bars and private garage parking are more palatable for local governments.
Examples of these lavish apartments are everywhere in Fort Worth.
▪ The Trinity Urban Apartments are walking distance to downtown and offer quick access to the Trinity Trails, but a one-bedroom apartment will set you back $1,217 to $3,150 a month.
▪ The View of Fort Worth, which is under construction at Northside Drive and Interstate 35W, is being built in a working-class area of north Fort Worth — and yet the average rent there will be $1,500 a month when it opens possibly later this year.
▪ A few miles to the west, in an area that used to be known more for auto parts stores and trailer homes, an apartment development known as The Palmer is under construction. This boutique complex will feature a rooftop bar, bike storage, a package concierge (to keep your Amazon deliveries safe) and technology that makes it possible for tenants to control their appliances and thermostats with a smartphone application.
▪ A bit farther to the west, at The Kelton at Clearfork, a 489-square-foot studio apartment will set you back $1,261 a month — and a two-bed, two-bath apartment is $3,131.
So what if you're existing on a modest income or perhaps are a recent college graduate moving to the Metroplex for an entry-level job?
The good news? As more luxury apartments are built, the older units tend to become a better deal.
Once the new apartments are open, older competitors will offer prospective residents a month of free rent, a break on utilities and other perks to lure them in.
"They're older and don't have amenities, but they are more reasonably priced," Faucher said. "Or they (renters) can choose an apartment further out and have a longer commute."
So, even though the abundance of luxury apartments being built in the Fort Worth area aren't for everybody, they do increase the overall supply of housing for the region, he said.
That will be good news for the 1 in 10 Metroplex adults under age 36 who, according to Apartment List, still receive rent help from their parents.
At the Dorothy Lane Apartments, Stahl says he still holds the line on rent and raises rates only to cover his property taxes.
His family operates 27 units in a neighborhood tucked between the Cultural District and the Monticello neighborhood, as well as several rental homes in the area.
They often cater to medical students at the UNT Health Science Center two blocks away and have been landlords since the early 1980s. Rental rates at the Dorothy Lane Apartments are a bargain compared to many surrounding complexes. For example, a one-bedroom apartment lease typically ranges from $725 to $895.
"We're not modern, but we are clean, safe and reliable," he said. "We're lucky we have great tenants who are close to the medical school. We have a steady stream of tenants who can more easily adjust with the times."
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.