What will tomorrow's cities and food systems look like?

December 16, 2014

No matter who you are or where you are, you need to eat.

In a few decades, it will be harder to find food because climate change, overpopulation and urban development are posing threats to the world’s food supply. close-up of a small, modeled city Download Full Image

It’s predicted that between now and 2030, the majority of the world’s population growth will occur in cities. Maximizing urban spaces for food growth will be of the utmost importance for a sustainable existence.

But what will food production look like in our cities?

On Jan. 17, middle school students from across Arizona will answer this question during the 2015 Future City Arizona Regional Competition set to take place at Arizona State University.

ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, through its Sustainability Solutions Festival, is sponsoring the Walton Sustainable Community Award and prize. The winning team will be invited to present and share their city at the 2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival, taking place across the Valley Feb. 16-21.

“Every year we are impressed with the ingenuity of the competing middle school students,” said Patricia Reiter, executive director of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “This competition inspires future problem-solvers to use their creativity and imagination to find solutions to some of the world’s toughest issues. We look forward to seeing how students reimagine access to food in the cities of the future.”

The Arizona Regional Competition is part of the national Future City Competition, an initiative of DiscoverE. The national competition will bring together more than 40,000 middle school students from around the United States to form teams to devise a way to grow and share food within cities, develop a virtual prototype using SimCity software and construct their solution within a physical-scale-modeled city, using recycled materials. One qualifying team from each regional competition will receive a trip to the Future City National Finals in Washington, D.C.

“We are extremely pleased to have the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and the ASU community as partners for our 18th annual Future City Competition,” said Mike Andrews, Future City Arizona region coordinator. “This unique partnership is just one example of bringing the engineering and education communities together to solve real-world problems, a primary goal of the National Future City Competition.”

Community members are invited to attend the Arizona Regional Competition and support the future innovators of a sustainable world. If you are an engineering, science, technology or math professional or organization, and would like to be involved in the competition, consider serving as a regional judge.

You can apply here or contact Mike Andrews at michael@andrews-associates.com.

Phoenix housing market ready to end a relatively flat year

December 16, 2014

After several years of wild roller-coaster activity, the Phoenix-area housing market is ready to end a relatively flat year. That’s according to the latest monthly report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Here are the highlights of the new report on Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of October:

• The median single-family-home sales price went up just 4 percent from last October to this October – from $200,000 to $208,000. Mike Orr Download Full Image

• Demand remains lower than last year, with sales of single-family homes down 5 percent from last October.

• The Valley is experiencing a very small bump up in two areas – investor interest and new-home sales.

After the housing crash, Phoenix-area home prices shot up from September 2011 to summer 2013. Then, the median single-family-home price rose just 4 percent more – from $200,000 to $208,000 – from last October to this October. Realtors will note the average price per square foot also went up 4 percent. The median townhome/condo sales price rose only 2 percent.

“We’ve seen very little change in the Greater Phoenix housing market for the last year, and stability is the order of the day,” says the report’s author, Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “Price increases look tame over the last 12 months, and even tamer if you examine just the last six months. There is no longer any real upward price momentum greater than the general level of inflation.”

Orr’s report notes that demand in the market remains lower than last year. In fact, the amount of single-family-home sales dropped 5 percent from last October to this October. Activity from first-time home buyers has been unusually low, in part because some people had their credit badly damaged during the recession and also because millennials are waiting to enter the home market until later in life than previous generations. These are also reasons the rental market is strong. Rents have increased 3.7 percent over the last 12 months in the Phoenix area.

Meantime, Valley foreclosures have dropped way down over the past year. Completed foreclosures of single-family and condo homes were down 19 percent from last October to this October. The lack of cheap foreclosures here has been largely driving investors to other areas of the country, where bargains are more plentiful. However, there was a little bump back up between this September and October. The percentage of residential properties bought by investors hit 15.5 percent, the highest level since May, but still well below last year’s levels.

“Investors and out-of-state buyers are showing a small recovery in buying interest, but to get our market back to what we would consider normal will still require a major increase in demand from local first-time home buyers,” explains Orr.

Some expect the coming introduction of conventional home loans with lower, 3-percent down payments next year to stimulate more interest, but Orr isn’t sure this will make a major dent. He anticipates small, incremental improvements.

“The big economic gains of the last few years have helped companies, but not necessarily the average person who might consider taking out a home loan,” says Orr.

One other note from Orr: The market share for new-home sales is doing better and has recovered to 14 percent – the same level as October 2013. Taylor Morrison, Pulte Homes and Meritage Homes are leading the way in the Phoenix area.

Those wanting more Valley housing data can subscribe to Orr’s monthly reports at www.wpcarey.asu.edu/realtyreports. The premium site includes statistics, charts, graphs and the ability to focus in on specific aspects of the market. More analysis is also available at the W. P. Carey School of Business “Research and Ideas” website at http://research.wpcarey.asu.edu.