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Some new Bend residents say it’s tough to find housing amid COVID-19

Especially for rentals, if they have pets

(Update: Adding video, comments from new Bend residents)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend continues to see a rise in out-of-town visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic, but people hoping to relocate to Bend may have a difficult time finding housing.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with John Runk, who moved to Bend from Santa Cruz, California last month.

He said he and his wife had originally planned to move to Bend in April. Then, the pandemic hit.

“We had to slam on the brakes,” Runk said. “That meant canceling movers, landlords, all that stuff.”

He said he and his wife have not experienced any hostility since moving here, despite reports of people with out-of-state license plates receiving notes telling them to “go back home.”

“Because of COVID, there’s been no reception,” Runk said. “We’re just another person on the street. We don’t meet too many people. We’d like to, but we’re keeping safe.”

Derek Cox, a real estate broker with Cascades Sotheby’s, moved to Bend from Grants Pass at the end of last month. 

“We’re actually different from most people,” Cox said. “A lot of people are coming up from large cities like San Francisco and L.A. We’re coming from a population of 38,000. We’re seeing this from a different angle.”

He said it was difficult to find rentals that allowed dogs.

“When we would see 10 properties come on, only one would allow a dog,” Cox said. “We knew there were just as many people out there looking for a rental that allows animals, so when we put in an application, we would be behind nine or 10 people every time.”

Melissa Gottlieb, the owner of Bend Relocation Services, said last year, she saw about 17 applicants per rental application. This year, she said, that has jumped to about 32.

“The biggest piece of advice is to plan ahead and give yourself more time than you think you need when finding a rental, especially if you have pets,” Gottlieb said.

She said the demographics of potential renters vary from retirees to young couples looking to start a life in Bend.

“Most of my clients in the last month have just decided they were just move here and find a rental, and they haven’t been able to find anything,” Gottlieb said. “They’re living in hotels, they’re couch-surfing. So it’s been a real problem.”

According to Damon Runberg, the Central Oregon regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, the most recent data from 2018 shows net migration was very high in Deschutes County.

On Thursday, he told NewsChannel 21 the county had a net migration of about 4,100 people from 2017 to 2018, meaning that many more people moved to Deschutes County, compared with those who moved away.

Runberg said most people moving to the area are from the Portland metro area, including the Willamette Valley, and from King County in Washington state. 

He said what may surprise people is there are no California counties in the top four counties sending new residents to Bend and Deschutes County, but there are 11 in the top 20.

“It’s really unlikely we’re going to see in the midst of the pandemic dramatic increases in migration, relative to what we’re seeing when we weren’t in a pandemic,” Runberg said.

He also said while it may feel like there is a high demand for housing, he anticipates a much slower migration pattern this year, compared to past years, because of the pandemic.

The pandemic has not deterred many people from moving to Bend, but COVID-19 has definitely slowed things down.

“We definitely think it’s going to be the slowest migration year we’ve seen in Deschutes County’s history,” Runberg said.

Bendites have been largely welcoming to recent and potential future residents on the Facebook group I LOVE BEND OR Community.

"You will love living here. People care in Bend!" one commenter said.

"Welcome to Bend. Please reach out when you arrive. I hope you are welcomed with open arms by all you meet," said another.

But recreational travel by tourists is still discouraged by officials.

The city of Bend has issued an administrative order asking tourists to refrain from visiting until Sept. 7, citing concerns over the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the state. 

Bend / Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Top Stories
Author Profile Photo

Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.



  1. Did COAR or COBA have any say in this article? It only uses industry insiders and old data, having the effect (either seen or unforseen) of inflating bends property market… also im curious how taking a early retirement in The Couv Washington just so you can move to bend, is essential travel 🤔

      1. Correct there are no restrictions on anything, just discouragement towards tourism and non-essential travel… so vacation rentals are now refusing to cancel covid-affected bookings because they dont “have” to… and local tv stations are back to hyping central oregon real estate despite relatively thin evidence that property speculation is an essential economic activity

      2. Also it was a serious question to ktvz, did the production of this article involve the input of outside entities like say, the realtors or builders (maybe edco?)

        1. We don’t divulge in all cases where our story ideas come from, they are a variety of sources – a reporter’s idea, a tip, etc. I can tell you there was no news release regarding it. You see well who we quote, as well as a public Facebook page.

    1. in response to anonymousktvz… people need to sell their houses for whatever reason.. govt.. can’t stop all business from happening.. also..lastly they could have shut down all restaurants/fast food joints.. and forced people to go to grocery stores.. however they did not.. post office could have been shut down as well. and garbage.. however they did not.. thank goodness some things did not get shut down all together.

  2. I live on Hwy 97 in Crescent. Most of the vehicles the last couple of months have out of state plates. Many Campers and tourist. The ones I see stopping for gas and/or food most are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. I am sure there are many that do not. My feelings are mixed, but hey, as long as you are safe, please, come spend your money here then go back home.

  3. If we prevented new comers, the cost of living would decrease and people could actually be paid enough to sustain. That would mean the slogan “poverty with a view” would no longer apply. It’s crucial that we keep our cost of housing high. Those out of staters just keep coming, overwhelming our roads, housing market, and local recreation areas.

    1. Its the newcomers driving up prices not locals, the artificially inflated values are exactly what attracts a certain kind of nouveau newcomer sadly

    2. thats the way things use to be. our population has doubled and the amount of traffic has more than tripled the last 20 years. this place was very affordable even with low wages. outdoor recreation was amazing, not littered with people and trash everywhere. you cant even pee on a tree in the woods without someone walking up on you anymore. i guess the only good news is if its not the end of the world in 10yrs i will sell my paid off house to some transplant for almost 90% more than i paid for it and walk away from this overpriced liberal dump and retire pretty young in some little cool mountain town like this use to be. id rather be here however the quality of life has really sunk here. the quality of people moving here is really low. however ive me some cool folks

      1. Sadly I feel exactly the same as you do. I thought I would one day be buried next to my family members in Redmond along side our greatest governor, Tom McCall. Now I wonder where on earth I will end up, barely able to pay my property taxes anymore. I no longer enjoy local parks, lakes and trails due to the boards of people inundating every outdoor space, but I pay for them with my taxes so millions of tourists can enjoy them along with our unsustainable growth in population. I’ve been looking all over Oregon for a place to move to, and nearly every home has offers made within a day of listing. I hate what’s happened to this once small, pristine country town. It makes me sick how many long time and lifetime Bend residents are being forced out and priced out of our hometown. Bend won’t even be worth visiting in 20 more years. I hope all the land developers, realtors and tourist based businesses are happy with their padded pockets at the cost of the demise of this poor town.

        1. nah , they wont because i do do what you people do. i wouldn’t move somewhere beautiful and trash it and do everything i can to destroy the culture in the area the way you people do.

  4. How nice for Melissa Gottlieb who makes her living charging people to help them move to an overpopulated once small town where there is now way too much traffic, zero affordable housing, over crowded schools, and parks, trails, lakes and nature and wildlife habitat that is being trampled to death by millions of people each year. After moving here from New York just a few years ago, instead of starting a business that might actually benefit our community, she decides to profit from helping more people relocate here. The last thing we need is more people moving here, I don’t care where they are from. The growth we are seeing is absolutely unsustainable, and that’s just a fact. All this article does in my opinion, is offer free advertising for a business that does nothing for Bend residents, and forces them to have even more competition for jobs and especially housing. Of course, we must be careful what we say, because I’d hate for anyone to be sued for slander or require counseling again.

      1. If you have an issue with me or with my company and feel a need to share your anger with the community, that’s your choice. However, the lawsuit you’re referring to was a personal matter involving my children and I do not appreciate you bringing that into this conversation nor do I feel like it’s warranted.

        1. Warranted? Maybe not but it does show us the type person we’re dealing with. I don’t buy into the contributing to what’s best for the community thing you are pedaling. We have lived in Bend for decades and are now being priced out of our current rental. My family is not one of your out of state customers who can afford your “consulting” fees. It occurs to me it’s possible you may have provided our landlord with the new tenant willing to pay the extra monthly costs we can’t. Did you ever think that for every new client you accommodate and landlord you entice another longtime resident becomes one of your casualties. As far as how proud you are or your “donations” to the City. That only proves how well you’ll fit in with city authorities who care more about tourism and expanding their tax base that they do long term residents. I’m just glad I got to experience Bend in it’s prime. When folks who might have been neighbors, mine was Bill Healy handled their disagreements without a need for frivolous lawsuits.

        2. I had no idea about this matter prior to looking up your name in Google after reading this article naming your business. I wanted to find our where you moved here from and how long ago. I never imagined finding out about this matter and seeing a previous news article about you. Sadly it is public record.

    1. Sounds like you need to go to city council meetings if you don’t already and voice your views. They approve new housing developments and infrastructure and they may not understand your view, which I share BTW.
      I live outside of city limits by a mile or two and thus don’t really have standing to complain to a city leadership where I don’t reside.
      I look at new housing developments ant it is insane, no yards, homes mere feet apart and packed like sardines.
      No way to live in my opinion…..and I don’t but to each their own.

      1. The only people our city council listen to anymore are developers and real estate brokers. They are pushing for huge apartment complexes and less single family housing. I am retired and live on a limited income. I am being priced out of my home by my property taxes alone, and all the long time locals I know are struggling to stay in their homes, or cannot find housing they can afford. To have a business where you charge people to help you relocate here is ridiculous to me. I wonder how much it costs?

        1. Just so you know, most people move here in part because they view the taxes as low not high, statistically speaking oregon is midpack for tax burden but its all about perception i guess

    2. I am sorry that you are harboring so much anger and resentment towards people moving to Bend and that you feel I am to blame for the growth. I would be happy to meet with you in person and tell you why I started Bend Relocation Services. Perhaps understanding what I do, why I do it and learn about how my company gives back to the City and the community will give you a different perspective. I spend a lot of time volunteering in the community and donate a lot of money to the City and to many different organizations here in Bend. I love Bend and encourage you to reach out to me directly so you can see how hard I work to preserve everything that makes Bend such a wonderful place to live.

      1. NO thank you. I’ve heard the same thing from so many people like you. Your business is for profit…that’s all I need to know. I’m sure you may contribute to the community, but you are also affecting the livability of Bend long term with the services you provide. I am resentful because my family has been here for over 60 years, and I can’t stand the overpopulation and unsustainable growth. I volunteer too, but unlike you, I don’t have money to pay to the city other than by paying my ever growing property taxes. Most long time locals feel the same way I do, so I know I’m not alone in my distain for out of state transplants and the companies who profit from them moving here. For you to claim you work hard to preserve Bend while directly contributing to our overpopulation is a contradiction.

        1. Dear native Oregon gal.. so much for you being open minded. And willing to listen to another person.

          You’ve made your decision before you’ve even had a convo. I call that judgemental.

          Welcoming.. not so much.

        2. Native OR GAL, you need to be in Salem, not the mindless one we have there now. And your right, it is a contradiction, and they are transplants. What has happened to Bend, is nothing short of a horror story, greed, entitlement, and low quality of these transplants.

    3. As long as people keep having kids, they’re going to go somewhere. As long as the population grows, there’s no stopping Bend’s or anywhere else’s growth.

      Especially since it’s relatively cheap to live here, you have people driven here thanks to income inequality. Where are they going to live? The big city they can’t afford?

      1. It is not relatively cheap to live here. Maybe if you’re from CA, NY or somewhere else where it is astronomical by comparison. I can no longer even afford my property taxes which have tripled on my very modest home since 2013. Rents that used to be $550-700 less than 10 years ago are now $1,600-2,300 for a small home. I don’t know how anyone can afford to live here, and it’s only getting worse. You mention income inequality, but that’s exactly what’s causing long time locals to no longer be able to afford to live here. People working and retiring from CA, WA, etc. where they have much higher incomes, come here and price us out of housing because we just make that kind of money. They think it is cheap to live here, but it is not. Since Bend and Central Oregon has become a Silicon Valley hub, we have rich Californians commuting here to work, and have homes in both states. I’m sorry but I don’t agree with your statements.

        1. Try living in Portland. It is relatively cheap to live here. Have you been to some of the places these people come from? I certainly don’t blame them for moving out and they have to go somewhere. I’m less than sorry that their search for a better life inconveniences you. Maybe you should have worked harder or kept your eyes open and seen this coming years ago, allowing you to plan accordingly.

          1. ah yes the transplant trying to push out the local. no wonder the quality of life is deteriorating so rapidly in central Oregon since u people showed up

            1. Unless you go all the way back to the reagan years and downtown was basically empty, small places and big places both have downsides theyre just different downsides… what people like about bend is the balance between the two, as with any balancing act in motion however its constantly asymmetrical and changing – in real terms that means bend punishes some very hardworking people and lavishly rewards some very lazy ones, im all for fixing it so regular folks can live here too, but our generally moderate tax bills are not my first target for change

              1. well i was a kid in bend during the Reagan years and bends was a great place to be. downtown was cool! my parents had a business downtown for 30yrs until the owner of the building died and his kids sold the building to a guy from California and tripled my parents rent overnight. my parents bought their house down the street from downtown for 40k. i was a beautiful very affordable place to live. good memories of riding quads from my doorstep and rallying in the woods in what is now the old mill shops and amphitheater. excellent down hill mountain biking on Aubrey butte. i could go on . today’s bend is a over priced big city dump compared to then

    4. Finally someone that gets it. What you wrote is exactly right and very sad but true. I still haven’t come to grips with the reality of what you did write. This was once a great place to live, and it will soon be the last place I would ever want to live. Mainly, the low quality of people moving here is a gross understatement, you see it in the grocery stores, and on the roads for sure, out on the trails, in our parks. It is nothing less than the death of a once great town. Accolades for this should properly be given to Visit Bend, and the states of Washington and California, among others.
      Also,I was just in Cresent, and saw all the out of state plates, and i did not see them wearing masks, nor have I ever seen the hundreds people at the Deschutes River Bridge in Sunriver ever wearing masks. Ok rant over, but I really wanted to thank you for writing what you did, because you nailed it.

      1. again you are spot on, I have seen more tourists this summer than any summer, and with this virus you wouldn’t think so, any wonder our numbers spiked, you get that right, Kate Brown?

  5. Hoping to make enough from the incline to sell out and figure out where to go that I can afford. Hoping to hold out 10 years. I like it here. Certainly no future for me here though. Won’t be able to afford anything here once I sell. Could be worse.

  6. I’m sure there’s some Native Americans that would get a chuckle out of the self righteous “long timers” that have expressed disdain for the modern invaders…. just sayin.

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