If you’re one of the thousands of people considering moving to Arizona, there’s good news – the region has strong economic growth, rich natural surroundings and more.
The bad news is you may have to look a little harder to find a new home.
Mayor Eric Osborn officially announced a housing shortage in Buckeye, Arizona – the westernmost suburb of the Phoenix metro area. He says the issue is widespread across the entire state and deserves quick attention to keep up with the region’s massive growth.
Livabl spoke to Mayor Osborn about the crisis – how it happened, what it means for Arizona residents and what needs to happen next.
What was the build-up to the current situation in Buckeye?
We have somewhere around 100,000 people moving to the Phoenix Metro Area from other locations around the country. Over the next decade we’re expecting to see a growth of about a million people.
Between 2000-2010, we were building enough to accommodate that growth. But from 2010 until now we’ve only added about half the number of units needed and still have rapid growth coming in.
Some of that is leftover consequences from the recession. Some of it is builders not wanting to engage to the extent that they did previously. Some of it is simply just the cost of building.
Why did you declare a housing shortage?
It seems like builders just can’t build houses fast enough in the area, and that supply/demand imbalance creates an opportunity for prices to rise. What we’re seeing specifically is housing prices continuing to go up, which prices a lot of people out of the market – especially the middle-class consumer.
All types of homes are becoming more and more unaffordable. If we don’t figure out how to get more housing through the pipeline, we’re going to stall all this economic growth that we’ve seen in the Phoenix Metro Area over the last 5-10 years. It’s been incredible and successful, but we’ve really got to figure out the housing component. Otherwise, the folks that are coming in and planting their businesses here are going to start saying their employees can’t afford or even find housing in the area. It’s not just a housing issue, it’s an economic development issue as well.
Are there any barriers that builders are facing right now that contribute to the lack of housing?
There’s a perfect storm of barriers that builders are facing right now. My background is land development and construction, and I know that it is incredibly difficult to find help right now to build – whether it’s horizontal infrastructure, roads, underground or the houses themselves.
The supply chain has been a barrier too, and COVID has not helped anything. You had a lot of shutdowns that affected the supply of goods. It just seemed like everything was working against the building community over the last couple of years.
Getting land entitled and to market fast has been difficult for the last few years. It used to be that you had a lot of developers that had land just waiting and ready to go, but I feel like that’s changed in the last few years.
What role does government play in solving this problem?
One thing that we’re trying to bring attention to is the fact that we have a problem that we all need to work together to figure out how to get past those chokepoints and bottlenecks.
If there’s faster ways to run things through approval processes at the city, or if there’s engineering that needs to happen on the construction side before we can approve their development, we want to be able to figure it out together.
Even through the pandemic, Buckeye’s single-family home and residential market has stayed relatively strong. Right now, there’s over 10,000 multi-family homes in the approval process somewhere in our pipeline, so there’s a lot going on in Buckeye. But each project has different challenges depending on where they’re located.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for the development community. So, we want to go project by project to figure out a solution.
What kinds of developments are needed to support Buckeye’s growing population?
I think it’s a balance of all types of developments.
We have a massive amount of development coming in that ranges from single-family starter homes to executive housing. There’s a lot of master-planned communities coming this way, too. We’ve been adding somewhere between 3,000-4,000 single-family homes over the last few years, and now it’s just a matter of mixing that with multi-family homes – whether that’s traditional garden-style apartments, build-to-rent product or workforce housing.
What makes Buckeye a good place to build?
The quality of life – definitely.
It’s also massive opportunity. We are a city of 640 square miles, and we’re only 13% built out. Moving to Buckeye is like pioneering. It’s close to the built-up Metro Phoenix Area. There are some wonderful retail opportunities coming our way. There are great transportation projects that are planned right now, too.
We also have about 10,000 jobs that are in the queue right now for this area, and we’re close to doubling the number of available jobs. So just massive opportunity. We’re at the ground floor of what is to become a massive growing community.