The state’s 4-year-old drought may still be with us, but an even-longer dry spell for Sonoma County homebuilders appears to be ending.
Sonoma County builders this fall are moving forward with more than 20 projects from Petaluma to Windsor. Together they add up to more than 1,400 units, by far the most new homes on the horizon in years.
“The market’s changed,” said Mark Setterland, chief building official for the city of Santa Rosa. The increased activity is welcome, he said, because “we are so challenged in this area for housing.”
Despite the increased activity, no one is predicting a return to the levels of construction seen before the housing crisis, when for two decades local builders erected an average of 2,500 apartments, condos and homes a year. Nonetheless, after seven years of lackluster results, many in the industry are welcoming what they consider a significant boost in building.
“The turnaround in housing that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here,” said Keith Woods, chief executive officer at the North Coast Builders Exchange, a Santa Rosa trade group.
The Builders Exchange is getting calls each week from contractors seeking workers. The boost in building, Woods said, “is going to create a lot of jobs.”
The increased activity came about mostly because home prices have returned to levels where builders can construct a house and make a profit, those in the industry said.
“It hasn’t made sense to build until recently,” said Randy Waller, broker/owner with W Real Estate in Santa Rosa, which will market homes for a number of the new projects.
When home prices were depressed for years partly due to a glut of foreclosures, “we had this huge gap where you could buy something for less than you could build it for,” Waller said.
In Santa Rosa and nearby Roseland, builders this fall are moving forward with plans to construct more than 550 units in over a dozen projects located in all four quadrants of the city. In most cases, earth moving already has begun.
The projects include the 110-unit multifamily Village Station subdivision near Sebastopol Road; the 122 single-family units and 15 triplexes planned at Paseo Vista on Dutton Avenue; the 55-unit single-family Aria Place on San Miguel Avenue; the 35-unit single-family Skyhawk 9 and 10 project near Sunhawk Drive; and the 32-unit single-family Rincon Place near Mission Boulevard and Highway 12.
Rohnert Park has three projects totaling more than 570 units that are expected to be in various stages of construction within the next year, said Mary Grace Pawson, the city’s director of Development Services. They include nearly 400 units for the first phase of the University District project, 100 units for phase one in the Southeast Specific Plan Area and an 84-unit multifamily residential project called the Reserve at Dowdell on Dowdell Avenue.
Windsor has three projects and more than 140 units either underway or expected to begin in 2016. They include the first subdivision approved by the Town Council in many years, Victoria Oaks, which includes 84 single-family units and six duplexes on Hembree Lane, said Community Development Director Ned Thomas.
And Petaluma has building permits issued for more than 170 units, including The Artisan, a 144-unit apartment complex on Maria Drive.
Along with all these projects, property owners are revising two major housing projects that previously had won local government approvals. They include Creekside Village, a project of 140 condominiums and 24 apartments approved in Santa Rosa on Montgomery Avenue near the historic Carrillo Adobe and the 387-unit Bell Village apartments, now renamed Vintage Oaks, along Old Redwood Highway in Windsor.