Despite stiff community opposition and an uncertain fate for its proposed project, Dominium Apartments is taking a major step toward bringing affordable housing to South Chandler by purchasing the land they hope to build on.
Dr. Urvish Shah, who lives in Michigan, sold 23.46 acres on Ocotillo, a little east of Arizona Avenue, to Dominium Apartments for just over $9.5 million, according to Valley real estate tracker vizzda.com, which reported the March 30 sale last week.
Shah, who bought the property for $800,000 in 2010, did not reply to an email seeking comment.
Dominium wants to build more than 500 affordable housing units on the property, but has faced opposition from the City of Chandler and an organized effort from neighbors to kill the project.
“We continue to work with stakeholders at the county level and throughout the City of Chandler,” said Owen Metz, Dominium’s senior vice president and project manager for the Mountain West region.
“We’re optimistic that we can find a path to success here, one that helps address the Valley’s housing crisis, helps families and seniors find places to live, and that our neighbors can support,” he said.
News of the deal was not welcomed by the neighbors who have been opposing the project.
“As neighbors, we were aware that Dominium was lobbying hard at the state level around legislation which would take away neighborhood input and allow them to build by right,” Aarthi D’Costa said.
D’Costa is a neighbor and one of the administrators for a Facebook page that opposes the project.
“To learn that they purchased this property after the city passed a resolution highlighting that any type of housing one that property violates the General Plan, Airpark Plan and will insufficient water shows that they will do anything to get their way,” she said.
The legislation that she is referencing is SB 1117, which was sponsored by Phoenix Republican Sen. Steve Kaiser. The proposed bill would restrict cities in some zoning in an effort to get more housing built.
The bill did not get enough support from his own party colleagues to get out of the Senate, but Kaiser is working on revisions that he hopes will secure passage. So far, the measure has not been re-introduced in a new form.
The neighbors lobbied hard to get Chandler City Council to oppose the project, filling the chamber beyond capacity at one meeting.
Council memebrs have written letters opposing the project and unanimously approved a proclamation asking the county not to approve this development.
The land in question is a county island, meaning it is an unincorporated part of Maricopa County that is surrounded by city land.
As such, the county Board of Supervisors has final say on the project.
City officials oppose the project because they want businesses that bring jobs in that part of South Chandler.
The neighbors have said they oppose it mainly because of the increase in traffic that the development will bring.
Dominium’s original vision for the property proposed two different complexes that would be side-by-side. Paseo Crossings would be 336 family units and Sonoran Landings would be 182 senior living units.
The project was originally called Landings on Ocotillo but its name was changed prior to a Jan. 25 neighborhood meeting.
As affordable housing, Dominium would offer the units below market values. The amount of rent would be tied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rent.
For example, a one-bedroom apartment that normally costs about $1,600 a month in Chandler would be available to rent for $1,000.
To get that rent an applicant must qualify. Most applicants will need a median family income that is no more than what 60% of residents in Chandler earn annually.
The U.S. Census Bureau says the median family income annually in Chandler for 2017-2021 was $91,299. The level needed to qualify would depend on how many people are in the household.
Up to 10% of the units could go to people who make 80% or less of the median family income. Dominium gets tax credits, but no direct subsidies for agreeing to cap their rent.
That helps the company obtain financing to build the units.
Both city and state officials have said there is a significant need for more housing in Arizona, especially affordable housing.
Rent.com lists the starting monthly price for a studio in Chandler at $1,125; a one-bedroom at around $1,300; and a two-bedroom at $1,600. Those are the lowest prices offered and many units rent for well above that.
The next step to getting the project approved would be for the county Planning & Zoning Commission to consider it but a hearing has not been scheduled.
Metz said after a neighborhood meeting that Dominium is reconsidering the project based on feedback they received. He suggested they may consider adding more senior living units since that seemed to be more agreeable.
“We’re tremendously excited about the long-term prospects in the City of Chandler,” Metz said. “It’s a great community. We hope this investment shows we are committed to being good neighbors and strong community partners.”
The neighbors say they will continue to oppose the project.
“It’s astonishing that an unelected, non-governmental monopoly company has so much power,” D’Costa said.
“It’s clearly made them very brazen,” she added. “And more importantly the fact they spent so much money on lobbying, PR and now this land deal shows that it never was about affordable housing to begin with.”
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