More Valley home construction may not meet demand

October 13, 2001|By JASON ZARA, Special to this newspaper

Hundreds of new homes are going up in Imperial, but that still may not be enough to meet the increasing demand for housing in the Imperial Valley.

While it may appear that a lot of new homes are being built Valleywide, the wait for a new home is averaging about five months. And with more people

moving to the Valley, it is hard to find housing, whether a new home, an older home or a rental.

"There's a perception in the Imperial Valley that we've built a lot of new homes," said Jon Edney, owner of El Centro Realty and broker for Wildflower North homes in Imperial. "But that's not really true."

He added fewer than 100 homes were built in El Centro and Imperial last year.

"We have far more than 100 people per year moving to the Imperial Valley and we have an absolute housing crunch."


Edney said the five-month lead time on buying a new home is not unusual — it takes about five months to build a home. But he said resale homes are going quickly and at increasing prices, and the rental market is tight as well, with about a 98 percent occupancy rate for apartments.

"That's a concern if you're involved in the community," Edney said. "If you're going to try to attract new businesses, you've got to provide them housing.

"I don't think we've done a good job of providing good quality housing, whether it is the purchase of new homes or the availability of real units for

these people to move into."

Almost 300 new homes have been built or are being built in Imperial this year. Christine R. De La Rosa, broker for Sandalwood Glen Homes in Imperial, said Imperial is attracting more people looking for a nice community with good schools. She said Imperial is a safe place and that draws people with families.

"That allows for a housing necessity," she said.

Sandalwood Glen Homes is already sold out, with 16 homes still to be built. De La Rosa said the homes range from $130,000 to $190,000, and many of the buyers are purchasing their first home. She said there are some "move-up" buyers as well.

"Statistically people stay in their house a maximum of seven years," De La Rosa said. "Usually families will buy three houses in their lives."

Wildflower North has a median price of about $190,000, according to Edney, and its homes are mostly sold to buyers moving up from their first homes.

"A lot of our buyers are move-up buyers," Edney said, adding that because their first homes have increased in value they can take the increased equity and purchase a larger home.

According to De La Rosa, there are plans for 331 houses to be built in El Centro in the Countryside development in 2002. She said there are plans

for 441 more homes in Imperial in 2006.

Edney said there is still the need for more housing and rentals.

"There has not been a fair market value apartment complex built in El Centro since 1994," he said.

He said part of the problem is local cities are pushing hard for new jobs and new growth, leading to incentives being offered to businesses.

Those incentives are being paid for by residential developers, Edney said, making it more profitable to bring in businesses than homes.

"We get a lot of upset callers who can't find a place to live," Edney said.

Quality homes are only on the market about two weeks at this point, Edney said, making it hard for buyers to take their time.

"It's a pressure situation to the point where if you're ready to buy you have to move ahead," he said.

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