Portland Developers Are Offering Renters Amazon Gift Cards to Move Into Their Luxury Apartments

Portland Developers Are Offering Renters Amazon Gift Cards to Move Into Their Luxury ApartmentsThe Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)

Renters who can afford an apartment in one of the new luxury towers sprouting up across Portland are now being offered cash incentives to move in.

Take the Emery, a seven-story building along the South Waterfront. It has nine apartments available within the next two months, starting with a $1,356-a-month one-bedroom. There’s air conditioning, a shared bike if you don’t have one, a bike room if you do, a pet washing station, and a clubhouse for parties.

And there’s a bonus for some units: a $1,000 gift card from Amazon to encourage prospective renters to sign a lease.

Not far away, at Sky3 in the West End, the owners as recently as last week were giving some tenants a $1,000 Visa check card and six weeks free rent to move in. (Studios there start at $1,328 a month.)

That’s just the start. As of last month, at least 33 high-end buildings in the central city and South Waterfront have more than 700 apartments sitting vacant or available for rent within the next two months, according to numbers WW found via publicly available listings and on a private management company spreadsheet.

So landlords in those buildings are advertising concessions: free rent for as long as eight weeks, along with other perks like gift cards, free parking and a yearlong free membership at a nearby health club.

The Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)

"It’s a sign that the market is weakening," says Portland economist Joe Cortright. "The last thing that apartment owners want to discount is the rent on a building. One-time offers—gift cards, free parking, waived deposits or other fees—it’s an indication they’re scrambling to fill apartments. It tends to predict that rents should ease further."

The discounts offered to prospective tenants who can already afford high-end apartments are a demonstration of the benefits of new housing supply—and its limits.

The glut of new apartments has corresponded with lower rent increases at all levels of the market. But the added supply doesn’t benefit everyone equally: The demand for workforce and affordable housing still outstrips supply.

The Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)

Data from real estate company CBRE show rents fell 3.1 percent during the last quarter of 2017 alone. That’s the largest drop in a single quarter since the early 2000s.

The Carson and other apartments springing up in Slabtown. (Justin Katigbak)

Data from ECONorthwest show that in buildings where rent was more than $2,000, rent was down 2.4 percent from June 2017 to June 2018. But in buildings with rents below $1,000, rents went up 2.3 percent.

The Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)
The Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)
The Carson, a 385-unit apartment complex in Slabtown, is offering six weeks of free rent to prospective tenants. They also get an Amazon Echo. (Justin Katigbak)

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