Occasionally I read something from a person for whom I have a little respect and I am utterly disappointed. Edward Gately’s Republic article Friday left me with that feeling. I’m doubly disappointed that it was labeled as a ‘fact check,’ and closed with a conclusion that isn’t founded on facts.
To rebut City Council candidate Cindy Hill’s concerns about the impact of the recent apartment approval/construction boom on real estate values and traffic, Gately reached out to a paid shill, and a city employee who has a long history of promoting such projects as a consultant.
Elliot Pollack, referenced in the article (which I have reproduced below) testified as a paid expert witness for the city council and Mayor Lane in a lawsuit seeking to block millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies and relief to the Professional Golfers Association. Pollack was also contracted by the liquor industry to perform a ‘study’ of the economic impact on the city of the bar district, which was widely panned by knowledgeable critics and by then-City Treasurer David Smith.
Paul Basha was a city transportation engineer who went out into the private sector to promote development projects, and came back through the revolving door to work for the city as transportation director.
Even if Gately didn’t already know this, he should have checked their backgrounds and provided this as–at the very least–parenthetical information for readers to consider.
And beyond that fundamental bit of journalism, the information they provided should have been subjected to at least SOME scrutiny, if not just the smell test.
Pollack’s statement, “Someone who lives in an apartment is not likely to look at a house as an alternative,” and the ‘reasoning’ which follows completely ignores the most fundamental considerations of all: affordability notwithstanding ability to qualify for a home loan. Apartments are, many times, just plain cheaper than ownership, and that’s a powerful motivating factor.
In a comment that is laughable when juxtaposed with other information published in the very same Arizona Republic recently, Pollack says that, “…the millennium generation is participating less in new-home buying than older generations…” Talk about a carefully parsed statement!
“New-home buying” is a very narrow segment of the housing market, especially in Scottsdale where there is very little “new” home construction due to build-out and the value of remaining undeveloped land.
“Participating less,” means…what? They are ‘buying less?’ Or they are ‘less interested’ in buying?
And compare that statement to a recent article by Catherine Reagor (also on AZCentral) on study results from Demand Institute that more than 80% of Millennials (age 20-34) want to own their own homes.
Paul Basha’s statement is just ridiculous:
Therefore, we do not factually know if the apartments will generate more traffic than the previous land uses.
Since most of the apartments under construction or approved for construction are being built on vacant or essentially vacant land…well, it’s just a stupid thing to say. No way to sugar-coat that sentiment.
And Gately’s self-contradictory conclusion is equally silly:
…it’s true that it’s too early to tell whether height and density will increase traffic congestion, but traffic volumes overall are down in Scottsdale…
The finding: ★ Mostly untrue
Which is it? If “true” that it’s too early to tell, then how can it be “mostly untrue?” And the fact that traffic volumes are down could easily be (and probably is) due to the stagnation of the economy or any number of variables NOT discussed, more so than any of the variables which WERE discussed in the article.
Here’s Gately’s article:
Fact check: Apartment claim mostly untrue
Too soon to assess impact on city
EDWARD GATELY | THE REPUBLIC | i AZCENTRAL.COM
WHO SAID IT: Cindy Hill.
TITLE: Scottsdale City Council candidate.
THE COMMENT: “More apartments and condos in Scottsdale? We are seriously killing our housing market for our Realtors and bringing in unrelenting traffic nightmares with height, density and assemblage. This is the incumbents plan and vision for Scottsdale.”
THE FORUM: Hill’s website, electcindyhill.wordpress.com.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: Whether the proliferation of multifamily housing is hurting the city’s single-family home market, and whether height and density are creating more traffic congestion across the city.
ANALYSIS: Scottsdale-based economist Elliott Pollack, who tracks real estate trends in Valley cities, has said multifamily development could leave the city with more units than tenants, and it’s the city’s job to determine whether there’s real demand and what “you want the city to look like.”
However, he said the proliferation of apartments and condominiums is not hurting the city’s single-family housing market.
“The overriding reason is that they are different markets,” Pollack said. “Someone who lives in an apartment is not likely to look at a house as an alternative. He or she is there because he or she doesn’t want to be tied down to a mortgage at the present time or may not be able to qualify. Those who buy a condo are choosing a lifestyle and, perhaps, don’t want to deal with a pool or a lawn or a maintenance person. They might also enjoy the lock-and-leave lifestyle that many condos offer. It is all about consumer choice.”
In addition, the millennium generation is participating much less in new-home buying than older generations for a variety of reasons, he said. The majority continue to prefer the flexibility of renting despite the long-term financial downside to their choice, he said.
Paul Basha, the city’s transportation director, said most of the multifamily developments approved in Scottsdale in the past five years have not yet been constructed and occupied. “Therefore, we do not factually know if the apartments will generate more traffic than the previous land uses,” he said. However, as reported during the Feb. 11 City Council study session on transportation, traffic v olumes in Scottsdale have been declining in recent years, Basha said. “Our post-freeway peak traffic volume was 4.16 million vehicles per day in 2006,” he said. “Our 2012 traffic volume was 3.78 million vehicles per day, equaling a 9 percent reduction. Our traffic volumes have reduced more than our population.”
BOTTOM LINE: The single-family home market has proved sluggish this year while most new apartments and condominiums have yet to be completed and ready for occupancy. In addition, those who rent apartments are not likely interested in purchasing homes, so the impact on the market is not likely to be significant. Hill’s comment might well have been suggesting what the city might be like in the future, and it’s true that it’s too early to tell whether height and density will increase traffic congestion, but traffic volumes overall are down in Scottsdale.
Source: Elliott D. Pollack; Scottsdale Transportation Department.
AZ Fact Check
The finding: ★ Mostly untrue