Chandler’s encouragement for more densely developed housing means that in the next few years, there could be more than 13,000 more residents than previously planned.
However, the slumping housing market means officials are pushing back the projected residential “build-out” date by seven years, to 2019. Build-out is when 95 percent of vacant land designated for housing has been used up.
Teri Killgore, Chandler’s downtown redevelopment manager, said the upside is that pushing the build-out date back several years means the city can better plan for future development on vacant parcels.
“It gives us the opportunity to create some really interesting walkable spaces, which we don’t have a lot of now,” she said.
And with more dense development, the city gets more “bang for its buck” on existing infrastructure like roads, water and sewer. Improving the existing systems is cheaper than building new infrastructure, she said.
As of Nov. 1, Chandler’s population stood at 251,473, Killgore said.
According to a report by Jason Crampton, a city planner, the population is expected to come within 500 people of breaking the 300,000 mark at build-out in 2019. That’s more than 13,000 people more than previously calculated.
The expected increase mainly stems from the Nov. 4 election, when city voters approved an updated general plan, Crampton said. That general plan, which will guide all future development until build-out, contains a new land-use classification, called “urban residential.”
Urban residential allows for dense residential development of more than 18 units per acre. It also encourages mixed-use development, such as placing housing over offices or retail shops, Crampton said.
“We don’t want to see really high density development throughout the city, just in select locations,” he said.
Those locations include northern Arizona Avenue, the downtown, Chandler Boulevard between Arizona Avenue and McQueen Road, the Chandler Fashion Center area, and the Interstate 10/Ray Road area.
The idea behind the classification is to put more people around existing public transportation routes and to blend residential and commercial so residents can walk to their destinations, Crampton said. It’s cheaper to improve existing infrastructure systems than to expand them into new areas, he said.
On the other hand, the sharp downturn in the housing market means it will take a lot longer to reach that build-out population, Crampton said.
Jane Poston, a city spokeswoman, said Chandler relies on fees that developers pay on new construction. The fees are used to fund city infrastructure projects to serve the new development and the additional traffic.
Slower growth means less revenue from impact fees, and the potential delay of capital projects, Poston said.
“(City staff) have not identified specific projects, but that’s certainly something they’re reviewing at the departmental level,” she said. “It is directly related to the population estimate and the funding we get from those development impact fees.”
Crampton said officials had expected a slowdown in new housing, but not one this severe.
In previous years, Chandler experienced a boom, issuing about 2,500 building permits for single-family houses per year since the 1990s, he said. The number peaked in 2004-05 at about 4,500. But in 2006-07, it dipped to under 1,000.
This fiscal year, the city’s on pace to issue only about 500 permits, he said.
Lending institutions have become more strict because of the recent volatility in the credit market, meaning it’s more difficult to obtain a home loan than it used to be, Crampton said. The result is a decrease in new private construction, a drop in impact fee revenue, and the potential delay of some city projects, he said.
“That’s going to affect how we provide services,” Crampton said.
If the housing market recovers by 2011-12, as Chandler officials predict, the city will reach build-out by 2019, he said.