Fewer rental apartments are available in the Washington area than in other parts of the United States, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Preliminary figures from a COG survey of rental apartments in the suburbs showed that as of Jan. 1, the overall vacancy rate for all multifamily rental apartments surveyed was an estimated 3.34 per cent, or 6,813 vacant apartments of all those surveyed. Nationally, there is a 5 cent vacancy rate for all types of rental housing. COG reports that to be the lowest national vacancy rate since the 1960s.

The 39,952 suburban highrises surveyed had the lowest vacancy rate at 2.33 per cent. The highest vacancy rate of 4.43 per cent was recorded for 8,933 suburban townhouses that were surveyed. The vacancy rate for 141,241 low rise units was 3.55 per cent and the vacancy rate for 13,708 mid-rise units was 3.47 per cent.

Arlington and Montgomery Countries had the lowest vacancy rates among the suburbs. There were 504 vacant apartments in Arlington County and 960 vacant apartments in Montgomery County - a vacancy rate of only two per cent. Other local governments recording vacancies below the 3.34 per cent average were Fairfax City (2.68 per cent or 49 apartments), Loudoun County (2.62 per cent or 30 apartments), and Alexandria (3.25 per cent or 674 apartments). The vacancy are in Fairfax County was 3.90 per cent or 1,699 apartments, while Prince William County had a vacancy rate of 4.17 per cent or 208 apartments and Prince George's County had a vacancy rate of 4.66 per cent or 2,685 apartments.

Apartments in Montgomery County were the most expensive among the surburban apartments surveyed. The average cost was $279 a month. That compares with an average of $266 per month for apartments in Fairfax County, $257 for Alexandria, $253 for Arlington County and $235 for Prince George's William Counties where the average monthly rent was $205 and $207 respectively.