Monday, July 17, 2006

Thinking of Moving to Tucson?

You may want to think again, according to this latest article:

Forbes: Tucson 7th most overpriced city

And the full Forbes article here.

It's sad but I think mostly true. I'm not complaining at all about what I earn, but when I look at the makeup of our community, Civano, and think about how only six years ago there was such a broad range of houses and prices, from $105,000 to an absolute highest of $300,00. Now, the average starting price of a new house in Civano is about $355,000, and the least expensive I've seen even a 1,200-square-foot house go for is about $275,000. The larger resale homes have been listed as high as half a million dollars. And the new homes all seem to be much larger than those originally built, which is not---to a large degree---what Civano is supposed to be about.

Folks, that's just crazy. Those neighbors who are only financially minded get all giddy thinking about it. They live by the mantra of "property value, property value, property value." But property value does not equate to sense of place nor quality of life, both of which suffer. What young families can afford now to move into our neighborhood? What retirees can afford those prices on their fixed incomes? Must we all be double-incomers to afford to live in a community as environmentally, architecturally, and socially minded as Civano. Heck, even the traditional suburban sprawl around us is considerably overpriced.

Who knows who's to blame, and who cares, really. As Americans---as citizens of the world, moreover---we're all great at the blame game, but that rarely solves any problems. The challenge before us is, frankly, how to adjust the "market system" to make it more equitable, to give families of all ages and generations the opportunity to live in a community like Civano. A bit of a Marxist slant to that, you think? Maybe. I did get a master's degree in urban and regional planning, after all, and that taught me one basic truth: The market system is fundamentally flawed. Otherwise, planning as a profession and civic pursuit wouldn't be necessary at all. The same can be said of energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmental preservation, social justice, and on and on.

But then, I've never really hidden my pseudo-socialistic ways, anyway!


Suzanne said...

What I find most strange about the soaring property values (around here, too) and new housing is that while families have gotten significantly smaller, square footage per home has gotten exponentially larger. It such a waste of natural resources. Bah!

jd said...

"The market system is fundamentally flawed. Otherwise, planning as a profession wouldn't be necessary at all."

Well said. I've sat on my town's planning and zoning commission for about four years now. At my first meeting I was appalled that as commissioners we didn't have any tools at our diposal to stop a developer from building a city block long "lambing shed" that he called an apartment building. The code was heaviliy tilted toward market forces with no provisions for externalities, such as the cost to the public good of butt ugly buildings.

Four years later we finally have a 21st century development code with design standards.

As far as solutions to adjusting the market system to allow more families affordable access to good communities, I am at a loss.

shann said...

my house was $37,000 in 1986- it's $137,000 right now- and we've done nothing but ruin it (my husband is not much for 'housy' stuff)

4 room house on a double lot (small double lot). I'm surprised Richmond didn't make that list- all the old tobacco warehouses are being converted into overpriced lofts.

I miss Tucson anyway, though I obviously couldn't afford to live there

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Yes, I'm a fan of the "smaller but more detailed is better" approach too, Suzanne. I just wish we had basements here for all the stuff as Americans we inexplecorably continue to collect!

JD, I sat on the City of Westminster Planning Commission for a year before moving into the city of Denver. It was a great experience. Westminster really wanted good, pedestrian-oriented places to counter the bedroom suburb identity it had taken on in the more recent years. Tucson, on the other hand, has a land use code and structure that fully supports suburban crap, as evidenced by its willingness to approve the wholesale demise of Civano Neighborhoods 2 and 3 to Pulte homes when it was clear that Pulte's plans were not in synch with Civano's goals, not to mention its sense of place.

Shann, I'm afraid---for better or worse---that even a quadrupling of value as in your case isn't enough to make then list when the house itelf is still *only* $137,000. But of course I see your point.

And yes, despite the crazy incline in housing prices (which have now leveled, though are still considerably too high), Tucson is still a great place to live. Despite my complaints, and precisely because people are working to solve those problems. And of course because of our beautiful desert.