Earth Notes
2:51 am
Thu May 3, 2007

Flagstaff Housing

Flagstaff, AZ –
It's not news to most people that housing prices in Flagstaff and other parts of Arizona are skyrocketing. According to Zillow dot com, Flagstaff and Yuma are in the top five cities in the nation when it comes to housing appreciation. So why are prices in Flagstaff still going through the roof, at a time when the real estate frenzy has subsided in other parts of the country? Arizona Public Radio's Theresa Bierer explores that question in part one of her series on housing in northern Arizona.

Tom Brewster is standing in front of large Arizona maps that predict future population growth in the country's fastest growing state.. Flagstaff Real Estate Broker Tom Brewster points to forecasted population booms in Kingman, the Verde Valley, Winslow and Holbrook .but the map predicts Flagstaff's population will be about the same in 20-50 .as it is today .

TOM As soon as people see this study and see this map they'll see that this is a serious problem.

Flagstaff is landlocked it's completely surrounded by Forest Service, State and Reservation lands. That leaves a lot of open space .but few options for development.

In any other area in Arizona like Tucson or Phoenix you can keep building drench the market with supply and the market conditions will take care of itself. But, that's not the case here because we're really isolated

Brewster says there are just a few more tracts of land open for development in Flagstaff. He says the city will be completely built out by 20-28 when he estimates the median house price will be one point five million dollars.

Jean Richmond Bowman is with the Northern Arizona Building Association and serves on a statewide housing commission. She says Flagstaff's lack of land isn't the only reason housing costs are soaring.

there's a feeling that Flagstaff will continue to be the playground paradise for everybody else in the state. It's the only place you can get out of the heat it's the only place you can really go to play in the snow so there are going to be more and more people second homes here, vacationing here. And as that happens and unfortunately the cost of living here will subsequently increase more along with that

THE AVERAGE PRICE OF A SINGLE FAMILY HOME HOUSE IN FLAGSTAFF IS 421 THOUSAND DOLLARS THAT'S DOUBLE THE COST FROM JUST 6 YEARS AGO. (numbers reflect average of sales prices provided by the northern Arizona Board of Realtors)

BOWMAN BELIEVES THOSE PRICES WILL FORCE HOMEBUYERS TO LOOK TO OTHER CITIES IN NORTHERN ARIZONA THAT HAVE ROOM AND THE DESIRE TO GROW.

those other communities are actually inviting people to come in and develop and grow. Kingman is very welcoming in terms of economic development and growth. Winslow is encouraging people to come build here.' We've received phone calls from people in places like Holbrook that are anticipating at some time in the not so distant future it's going to come down to their neck of the woods and they want to be prepared for it.

For years many builders in Flagstaff have also said the city's building fees and a difficult approval process are at least partially to blame for escalating prices. Others say the government needs to be more involved, not less. Real estate broker Tom Brewster was part of a housing task force that issued recommendations to the City Council in 2004.

I don't see any way we can provide workforce housing without government intervention. And that includes state land federal land whatever the city owns we need to be able to put that land out there and make it permanently affordable

Tomorrow, in the second part of this series, we'll look at one plan that would permanently hold down at least some home prices in Flagstaff.

For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Theresa Bierer