12 Investigates: Vacancy rate projection errors

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The "for lease" signs across greater Richmond are growing, if you believe the latest figures from the US Census Bureau. The agency calculates nearly 20% of apartments in greater Richmond are empty.

CNBC ran with the story, ranking Richmond the 5th emptiest city in America. But local rental agencies are evicting these figures.

"I gasped. I said this can't be good, this is not accurate," said Andrew Chisholm.

He oversees 3,600 apartment units in greater Richmond for the company Drucker and Falk. He's opening even more apartments this November at 8th and Main streets in downtown Richmond. He already has 17% of that building leased.

"We work with developers from out-of-state or in-state for that matter. They pay attention to these numbers and decide whether or not they want to invest money into this area," said Chisholm.

The Central Virginia Apartment Association monitors the vacancy rates for Richmond. A professional data company puts that rental rate at just 6.2%, nothing even close the 19% reported by the Census Bureau.

"It's frustrating for me because I don't' think it's an accurate reflection of our city," said Patrick McCloud.

He's the president of the CVAA. He also notes,This isn't the first time this has happened.

"A little bit of deja vu from February of 2009 when we had this exact same story and the numbers then were off exactly like they are now," said McCloud.

At that time Forbes Magazine ran a similar story, touting an even higher vacancy rate for the Richmond area...nearly 24%

But a statistician with the Census Bureau back in 2009, Robert Callis, admitted to NBC12, the bureau's numbers could really be off.

"This is a sample survey and Richmond is one of the smaller MSA's, so you do have a higher sampling error. So I can't necessarily dispute what they say," he said.

McCloud believes we are just seeing a repeat of 2009. He says the numbers are wrong and unfair to greater Richmond.

"You wouldn't even bother taking a second look at Richmond. So, it basically takes someone and says stay out of Richmond. Which is absolutely not the case and what the data is actually showing," McCloud added.

According to the local data, Richmond gained another 627 renters in the past 6 months.

As they say, when the economy is struggling, more people end up renting. If you believe the local numbers, Richmond's vacancy rate is dropping and not going up.

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