APEX — It’s a seller’s market in residential real estate, and homebuilders can’t keep up with demand. But they are trying in Apex.
Apex this year is set to approve about 811 residential units, which will add about 2,300 people.
That’s a big jump from 2009, when the town added about 490 residential units. Among the projects is the Greenmoor subdivision, which will bring 254 homes on 99 acres of Green Level Church Road.
Apex is experiencing such a housing boom that it needs more staff to keep up with rezoning requests, government hearings and site-plan reviews.
To help deal with a work level the town hasn’t seen since before the recession, Apex is hiring two additional people for its planning department.
“These positions would take workload off senior planners and do more of the administrative-type tasks,” said Town Councilman Gene Schulze, chairman of the personnel committee. “The work is coming in faster than we can keep up with it. Clearly there is a need.”
The growth rate in Apex is at 4.6 percent, which is the highest in the past decade, according to a staff report.
Apex saw 36 rezoning requests in 2013. That’s nearly three times the number received the previous year, when there were 13 requests.
Last year brought the highest number of rezoning petitions in the past decade, according to town figures.
Most of the petitions were for residential subdivisions. The town received 19 such requests last year, compared to seven in 2012.
That figure exceeds pre-recession levels, according to town data.
Nationally, new home construction is at a 50-year low according to economists with the National Association of Realtors.
The annual pace of building 999,000 new units is insufficient to satisfy demand. “Another 50 percent increase in housing starts is needed to help relieve the inventory shortage conditions,” according to the association’s analysis.
Tom Gongawaare, general sales manager for national real estate company Allen Tate, tracks the local data, specifically for the Cary, Apex, Morrisville area.
In a balanced market there is a six-month inventory of homes. In 2011 there was an 8.5 month inventory of homes in Apex. In the last 12 months that inventory has dipped dramatically, reaching a low of 1.7 months in May. As of December the housing inventory was about 2.9 months, Gongaware said.
With housing inventory so low, it is truly a seller’s market, which could drive up the price of homes, he said.
“The Apex, Cary, Morrisville area enjoys employment growth, proximity to employment centers, the reputation of Wake County public schools, and the toll road,” he said. “All of these things make Cary, Morrisville and Apex attractive to people looking to buy.”
Meanwhile, the exponential growth is expected to continue. In order to handle the expected uptick in requests for rezonings and other permits, Apex plans to spend an additional $40,000 to hire a full-time planner and planning technician.
The money will come from the additional revenue from residential permits, according to a budget ordinance approved by the Town Council on Tuesday.
“The residential development is busting loose. It’s been dormant for a while, but it’s picked back up,” said former Mayor Keith Weatherly. “Economists said the Triangle, this whole region, would be the last to go into the recession and among the first to come out.”
Weatherly also credits N.C. 540 with helping to lure more residential development.
“We knew there was going to be prime development opportunities,” he said. “We want good quality development, not growth for growth’s sake.”
More rooftops are also a boon for non-residential development. Spikes in residential growth have typically led to more commercial ventures.
Last year, the town had 43 requests for non-residential developments. That was more than Apex saw annually between 1994 and 2007.
“Retailers follow rooftops and do not expand into markets until there is a demand for their product or service,” according to a staff report presented to the Apex Town Council on Tuesday.
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