New construction uneven across three cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- There's a blip in new construction around the Tri-Cities. There were fewer new homes built last year versus the year before. The year over year change was most significant in Pasco. KEPR got two different answers on why that may be.

The Home Builders Association knows what to blame for fewer homes built in Pasco last year. It points immediately to the $5,000 impact fee added for all new home permits. Pasco uses this money to offset the affect on schools by new families moving in.

"As long as that fee is there, they are not competing on the same level as the other cities which is going to continue to be problematic for the city of Pasco," said Executive Director of Home Builders Association, Jeff Losey.

The head of the Home Builders Association says people can build the same house they'd find in Pasco for $10,000 cheaper in Kennewick.

"Why would you chose to build in a place that's more expensive? That's the bottom line," said Losey.

"That might be a part of the reason, but I think another reason, for example, is there are very few builders at this point in Pasco," said Pasco Community Development Director, Rick White.

The Home Builders Association saw a 10% decrease in the number of single-family home permits issued across our region last year compared to the year before. However, there was a 7% increase in Kennewick. A 3% decrease in Richland. And 35% decrease in Pasco.
That's on top of a 35% decrease the year before. That totals a drop of more than 60% in the past couple years. TRIDEC says Pasco knew the fees would slow down growth in Pasco. And that the growth may not have been a sustainable pace anyway. Pasco is happy with where it's at, despite the drop in new home construction.

"If you're hitting one and a half percent growth a year, that's pretty healthy, there's a lot of communities that would really appreciate to have that number," said White.

Pasco expects building to be flat for 2014 over the previous year. The builders expect another drop in permits.

As strongly as the two sides feel, TRIDEC doesn't feel the impact fees will make that big of a difference at construction in the long term.