FLORENCE — Even as area communities see record numbers of new homes going up, cities large and small are hurting for affordable housing, city managers said at an online Pinal Partnership breakfast meeting Friday.
Casa Grande needs more workforce housing, more multifamily housing and apartments, Deputy City Manager Steven Weaver said. Amid lots of single-family housing, the city has a few multifamily projects underway.
“We have a great need for that. All of our apartment complexes are completely full. And the prices are going up so much to the point that people can’t afford it,” Weaver said.
Apache Junction City Manager Bryant Powell agreed, “Affordable housing is something we need to face in Arizona. I don’t like the increases that we’ve seen and I worry about our residents being able to keep going.”
Apache Junction in the past set aside commercial acreage on every major corner but is now working with the private sector to make some of these areas residential, Powell said.
Superior Town Manager Todd Pryor said gentrification is also one of his town’s big challenges. “All these little mine houses are being bought up and redeveloped, and turned into $300,000 houses — which is great if you’re a developer, but it’s not great if you’re a resident in the community and you want your children to move back to town, and they can’t find an affordable place.”
Superior has “a very hot housing market and a lot of pent-up demand.” But it’s landlocked, surrounded by national forest, “which is an asset and a challenge,” Pryor said. Getting old mining interests to release developable land has been challenging. When 20 or 40 acres become available, “it’s a huge opportunity to get some affordable workforce housing in our community.”
Gentrification, plus “a monster industrial operation” (Resolution Copper) on Superior’s boundary are big tasks for the town. “Managing those conflicting demands is going to be a huge challenge,” Pryor said. Superior also just completed an annexation that swelled the town’s area from 2 square miles to 12.
Maricopa City Manager Rock Horst said his city’s biggest challenge is keeping up with growth. “We could well add 10,000 people to our population over the next 12 months. We’re poised to probably build 2,800 single-family homes and between 500 and 1,000 multifamily units this coming year.” The city has more than 50 projects either under construction or in full entitlement phase, Horst said.
Queen Creek, this fiscal year, will probably issue 2,100 housing permits, well in excess of the 1,750 per year it used to issue before the recession, Town Manager John Kross said. Casa Grande is expecting up to 2,000.
Kross said Queen Creek is also transitioning to its own town Police Department, after more than 30 years of contracting with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
The town bought 44 police vehicles from Chevrolet and had a commitment on delivery by June. The vendor is now saying because of a chip shortage in the semiconductor industry, it can’t commit to the town’s January transition to the new Police Department.
“Well that’s very disruptive for us,” Kross said. “…We’ve had to reconnoiter on some different options and we’ve got it figured out, but nevertheless it was a variable we didn’t anticipate.”
Managers described still more challenges. Florence Manager Brent Billingsley said a big one for all of Pinal County’s managers will be to maintain water supply and the ability to develop.
“We need all of the folks that are part of Pinal Partnership, as well as Pinal Partnership, to continue working forward in that direction,” Billingsley said.
“We will,” forum moderator Jordan Rose said. “And that’s actually Pinal Partnership’s number-one priority right now, is helping with the water situation.”
The managers of Coolidge and Eloy said they’re trying to separate their cities from their old landfills. Coolidge City Manager Rick Miller said the city is working with a consultant to finalize a closure plan. Eloy City Manager Harvey Krauss said the city has just released a request for proposals to the private sector to either buy it, operate it on a long-term lease or install a transfer station.
At least two large waste companies are interested in the landfill. Krauss said the goal is to turn it into a revenue-producing asset rather than a burden, while keeping it available for residents to use. “It’s going to be challenging to work out a deal, but it’s kind of exciting, too,” Krauss said.
Miller said Coolidge is working with a consultant on odor control at its wastewater plant. Much of the problem is related to “oversizing” in some of the system. Rose replied that oversizing bodes well for future growth, and Miller agreed: “I think those sewer lines are going to get filled up pretty fast.”