The Phoenix Business Journal’s Mike Sunnucks reported a few weeks ago that the apartment construction trend which has been riding a wave of favorable rezoning has crested.
Some in Scottsdale have bandied around a number in the 10,000 range for units in the pipeline (approved or under construction) which appears to be about one-third of the total number cited by Sunucks for ‘the region.’
There are several real problems with this situation.
- A housing unit is–to a large degree–a housing unit. So excess in one category (whether multi-family apartments or condos, or single-family homes) affects the value in the rest. It’s simple supply-and-demand.
- High-density housing projects have a direct impact on traffic and other infrastructure, which immediately affects quality of life for existing residents. New apartments by definition mean new residents.
- Quality of life issues have a compounding effect on desirability and housing values. Would you rather live where there’s more traffic or less traffic?
- Infrastructure impacts like the need to upgrade roadways, water mains, and wastewater facilities always cost money and are never (contrary to statements by city planners and politicians) fully covered by development fees. So they wind up coming out of your pocket via higher taxes than you’d otherwise pay.
- Even within the apartment category, an overshoot of supply will depress rents for all apartments, new or existing. This increases pressure for apartment developments to open up to Section 8 housing, which can (if not properly managed) depress community desirability–and rents–even farther.
All of this has larger effects on the economic sustainability of Scottsdale, and the relationship between our quality of life vs. cost of living.
So, isn’t it the job off city planners to avoid these situations? Well, sort of. It’s certainly within the scope of good planning to do so, and Scottsdale has an excellent, citizen-ratified General Plan that guide our planners.
The problem is that the city planners report to a city manager, who serves at the pleasure of Mayor Jim Lane and a council majority; including incumbents Dennis Robbins and Linda Milhaven (standing for re-election next month).
This Scottsdale City Council has approved more apartment rezonings in the last two years than probably any two-year period in the history of the City. Why? Campaign contributions, from among others, the Chamber of Commerce and it’s financially-dominant developer-members; the Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors and the parent NAR (ironic considering Realtors don’t get commissions for apartments, and see diminished commissions when single-family values are depressed); and bar developers/owners, who derive the bulk of their public-safety-burdening business from apartment dwellers.
Keep this in mind when you mark your early ballots or go to the polls. The only two candidates who have demonstrated their commitment to sustaining your quality of life and maintaining your cost of living are Kathy Littlefield and Cindy Hill.