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Portland rent increases are slowing as more new apartment buildings are completed. But the increases are still the highest in the country, according to the biannual Apartment Report released by Multifamily NW on Tuesday.

The report says rent increases dropped from 13 percent over the past year, the highest in the country then. They increased at an annualized rate of 10.7 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

That's still the highest in the country. Only Sacramento rents increased as fast. First quarter rent increases were less in all other cities.

The report was presented at a Tuesday breakfast held by Multifamily NW, which represent multifamily housing owners in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The first quarter rent increases were included in a presentation by Mark D. Barry, MAI. The small decline corresponds to a slight increase in the rental vacancy rate in Portland from 2.9 percent last fall to 3.5 percent.

The new apartment construction does little to ease the burden on low-income renters because they cannot afford them. In fact, according to Norris Stevens brokerage firm, the new apartments have not kept pace with all the additional people moving to Portland. As a result, rents have risen in older inner city apartments as well, forcing their lower-income tenants out.

"Over the last 3 years, property owners have benefited from one of the most aggressive cycles of rent increases we have seen due to tremendous increases in demand for apartments," Norris Stevens wrote in its Spring 2016 newsletter. "As Oregon and Washington emerges from the economic recession, central neighborhoods have become "magnets for growth." This has forced lower income renters into lower quality and older construction, as their previous residence have been sold and upgraded, and rents increased far beyond the average renter's ability to pay."

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