More than 30 percent of the single-family housing permits issued in the Valley during the first half of 2005 were in Pinal County, indicating a major shift in Valley growth patterns, a Scottsdale economist said Friday.
Elliott Pollack, president of Elliott D. Pollack and Associates, told a gathering of Pinal County business and government leaders that southeast Maricopa County is running out of development space, and growth will move increasingly to Pinal County. He added that previous population forecasts for Pinal County probably were understated.
"You can still get housing down here that’s reasonably inexpensive," he told the group, which met in Casa Grande. "That gives you a major competitive advantage because affordability will be the major issue over the next several years when it comes to housing."
According to a Phoenix Metro Housing Study conducted by Arizona State University, which included Pinal County as a part of the Valley, Pinal County’s share of singlefamily home permits jumped to 30.5 percent in the first half of 2005, up from 19 percent in 2004.
Meanwhile, southeast Maricopa County’s share of singlefamily permits has dropped sharply this year to 13.9 percent from 20.2 percent last year.
The share in the north East Valley, mostly north Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, also has steadily declined to just 4.5 percent in the first half of this year.
The West Valley has been picking up a lot of the slack, holding above 50 percent of the total each year since 2002, according to the study.
Growth is likely to be increasingly concentrated in the West Valley and Pinal County because they still have large tracts of land available for development, said Rick Merritt, senior vice president of Elliott D. Pollack and Associates.
He said Pinal County’s share of regional home building is likely to increase to 35 percent to 40 percent of the total while the West Valley is likely to hold at about 50 percent for the foreseeable future.
"We’re on the cusp of seeing something really significant happening here (in Pinal County)," he said.
The shift in growth to Pinal County is also reflected in recent single-family permit figures for various cities, Pollack said.
The number of permits in Gilbert during the first half of this year is down 42 percent from the same time period last year, he said.
Single-family permits are down 36 percent in both Chandler and Mesa but are up 100 percent in Pinal County, he said.
The number of singlefamily permits issued in the first half of this year was greater in Casa Grande than in Mesa, he said.
In raw numbers, 9,762 single-family permits were issued in Pinal County in the first six months of this year compared with 3,883 in southeast Maricopa County.
A 2004 demographic study conducted in conjunction with a Central Arizona College bond election predicted that the Pinal County population would grow from 180,000 in 2000 to 769,000 in 2020.
But if the county reaches a 35 percent share of the Valley housing market, which Pollack considers a conservative estimate, its population would reach 978,000 by 2020.
If it achieves a 40 percent share, it would be more than 1 million, he said.
"There’s nothing wrong with the past study, but it was done earlier," he said. "We have more data now."
Pollack made his comments at the inaugural meeting of the Pinal Partnership, a group of business, government and development officials that will seek to influence policy decisions affecting Pinal County.
About 300 people attended.
The group, which is modeled on the Valley and East Valley partnerships, plans to hire a full-time executive director by November, said Jordan Rose, an attorney representing Pinal County developers and one of the founders of the organization.
An important goal is to coordinate the activities of landowners, developers, residents and government officials, said Sandie Smith, a member of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and another founder.
"We want to get businesses together with government to address the infrastructure needs we have," she said. "We need to be a part of the planning for that."
Casa Grande Mayor Chuck Walton said developers and government officials are "born to be adversaries" and the partnership could help to reduce the friction.
"We have the opportunity to turn Pinal County into a wonderful place," he said.