Apartment demand in the aftermath of a dramatic decline in new homeownership caused Colorado's apartment vacancy rate to fall 16.6% in the past year, according to the Colorado Division of Housing. As it stands now, the vacancy rate in the state is 5.5%, down from 6.6% a year earlier. The largest drop in the vacancy rate occurred in Grand Junction where the city's apartment vacancy rate fell 45% from 11.6% to 6.3%. "The effect of less home buying combined with continued local population growth has been a lot of demand for rental housing," said Ryan McMaken, a spokesman with the Division of Housing. "As a result we’re now looking at some of the most solid rent growth since 2008 before the recession hit." Rents in Colorado grew as vacancies declined, with the average monthly payment statewide rent climbing nearly 4% to $873 a month from $840 a month one year ago. Homeownership nationally continues to decline, making apartment complexes the beneficiaries of the lack of demand in traditional single-family housing. Write to: Kerri Panchuk.