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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. 

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Rhea Panela

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


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