Unfinished Chandler subdivisions once dotted with empty streets, vacant lots and languishing model homes are starting to buzz with construction and sales activity again.
It’s giving city officials a sign that the local economy is improving. Residents in the languishing neighborhoods are seeing a day when they can stop worrying about blight, weeds and living in what looks like a ghost town. And buyers who want to live near shopping, employment centers and freeways are getting deals they wouldn’t have seen two or three years ago.
In the upscale Fulton Ranch where $450,000 price tags were once common, buyers are moving into new homes in the $250,000 to $350,000 range. The stalled Maracay Homes’ Stonefield Enclave near Dobson and Germann roads on the former Dugan Dairy site is back to building and selling after months of no activity.
New-home construction across the city took a sharp upswing this summer after many dismal months. In June, the city issued 147 building permits for single-family homes – more than the previous nine months combined and up from a low of one in February. Most are for homes in unfinished south Chandler subdivisions, said David DeLaTorre, advance planning manager.
“A lot of construction had been stalled because of the poor housing market,” DeLaTorre said. “Maybe the positive news that the market is changing on a national level started to make people decide to buy homes again,” he said.
Dennis Webb, vice president of operations for Fulton Homes, said the builder has launched new models, lowered prices and is changing buyer options, making once-standard features like pricey granite countertops an optional upgrade. Builders are shying away from the pricier products because tight lending makes it more difficult and expensive for buyers to obtain “jumbo” loans, he said.
Fulton Homes, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in February, has sold more than 100 houses in the city since the filing and continues to improve, Webb said. The builder’s south Chandler subdivisions are desirable because they are near shopping, freeways, Intel and the Price Road Corridor, he said.
DeLaTorre said other stalled subdivisions seeing renewed activity are Shea Homes’ Old Stone Ranch near Lindsay and Ocotillo roads, T.W. Lewis’ Valencia II near Chandler Heights and Gilbert roads, and Fulton Homes’ Geneva Estates near McQueen and Ocotillo roads.
In May, Blandford Homes purchased 86 vacant lots at a trust sale of Portello at Dobson Crossing near Arizona Avenue and Queen Creek Roads after residents struggled for months with weeds and upkeep. The subdivision was one of four that Scottsdale-based Randall Martin Home walked away from early last year.
Others remain tied up in foreclosure or bankruptcy, but city officials expect renewed activity once ownership and debt issues are settled.
However, there are few new subdivisions in the planning stages and multi-family projects such as apartments and condos remain stalled, city records show. Only one multifamily building permit was issued by the city this year. And commercial and industrial construction has been at a near standstill for more than a year.
DeLaTorre said Chandler had been preparing for a home-building slowdown, but the economy put the brakes on it sooner than expected. That’s because the city is approaching build-out and running out of vacant land. That day won’t come as soon as once expected, but the newly brisk home-building pace “is not going to last forever,” he said.