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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The growth machine is dead

In 2008, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University released a report called Megapolitan: Arizona’s Sun Corridor. It predicted that the corridor, stretching from Nogales in the south to Prescott in the north, with Phoenix and Tucson at its heart, would more than double its population by 2040, requiring some 3.7 million housing units and 2.4 million acre feet of water. When the report was being put together, the idea that this particular stretch of Arizona would house 10 million people in just a few decades wasn’t just realistic, it seemed inevitable -- after all, the region’s identity was tied up with that revved up growth machine.
home prices
Even as the report was making its initial round, the very foundations of its predictions were crumbling into the sand. After reaching its peak during the summer of 2006, the housing boom deteriorated, and the construction industry, which had provided nearly 1 in every 10 jobs in the Phoenix area, was hemorrhaging. The state’s estimates of population, which were based on the assumption that nearly all the new houses that had been built since 2000 were occupied, were proven wrong, because at least one out of ten of those new homes turned out to be empty.

Nevertheless, in 2009 the lead authors of the Megapolitan report, while admitting that their projections now sounded a “little out of tune,” continued to believe that the growth would return.

It hasn’t. And it won’t, at least not anytime soon.

Read the rest of this post at the HCN Goat blog, where I'll continue to delve into this question: With the housing boom gone, where does the West go now? What will it mean for cultures, communities and the environment? 

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