Payson Growing Unaffordable, Swartwood Says

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While water shortages are at the forefront of political debates these days, some people see the real worry elsewhere.

"We have a crisis in the real estate industry in Payson," said Craig Swartwood, longtime real estate agent, former mayor and board member for the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation. He spoke to a full room Wednesday at a program organized to discuss economic factors associated with water and land.

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According to real estate agent Craig Swartwood, the median price for a home in Payson rose almost $50,000 from 2004 to 2005.

"We need to quit talking about affordable housing in Payson," he said. "We're losing our work force housing."

To illustrate his point, Swartwood said someone earning $33,500 per year could qualify for a $111,000 mortgage at 6.5 percent interest. Someone making $40,000 a year could get a $155,000 mortgage. A dual-income couple, bringing in $60,000 a year could get $220,000 in financing.

On Feb. 7, Swartwood checked the multiple listing service keeping those figures in mind. In the $100,000 to $300,000 price range there were 36 site built homes, 27 manufactured homes, seven active condominium listings and only two new homes in construction for under $300,000.

"In five years, where are the policemen and teachers and others going to live if they don't already own a house?" he said.

In 2004, there were 653 homes sold at a median cost of $165,000. One year later, the median cost of the 729 homes on the market had risen to $207,900.

There is very little land available on which to build a home that would be under $300,000," Swartwood said. "I don't know what we're going to do. We are in danger of becoming a millionaire's playground. Where are the workers going to live?"

Payson is 19.5 square miles with a very well thought out land use plan, Swartwood said. Thirty-two percent of the land in town is owned by the federal government, with 68 percent in private hands.

He said 320 acres of federally held land where the Payson

Ranger Station is located may be included in a future land exchange. Swartwood sees that land as a place to develop housing for Payson's work force housing.

The property is designated for mixed use. According to the town's general plan, "the intent of mixed-use development areas is to provide a wide range of housing choices, open space and/or recreational opportunities, and commercial and employment areas."

Across Highway 260 from the ranger station land is the community college, west of it is land designated for high-density development.

Swartwood said he looked at that land. It is mostly straight up and down and not suitable for building.

"Since 1993, the only thing that hasn't gone up is impact fees," Swartwood said. "We have an opportunity to do some creative things by raising impact fees."

He suggested creating a bank of real estate for the work force.

A land bank would be a vehicle for the town to collect fees from developers and builders to purchase lots to sell to the work force on which to build homes. Another possible solution would require the developers to set aside land for work force housing.

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