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Officials: Housing, schools made Buckeye one nation’s fastest-growing towns

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WASHINGTON – Buckeye officials said they were not particularly surprised when recent Census estimates showed their town was the ninth-fastest-growing city in the country in 2012.

As the town rebounds from the housing collapse of 2007, city officials believe they are attracting younger families from Phoenix moving out to Buckeye. They are drawn in by the West Valley town’s businesses – including two new hospitals – restaurants, good schools and new roads.

There are “tremendous expansion opportunities in the West Valley,” said Tracy Simmons, the marketing director for Verrado, a planned community in the town. “There are new transportation opportunities off of the I-10, 101, and 303,” she said of highways near Buckeye.

Census Bureau estimates released last week confirm what local officials knew, that Buckeye grew from 52,373 residents in July 2011 to 54,542 in July 2012, a growth rate of 4.14 percent. That was the ninth-fastest growth rate in the nation, between Irvine, Calif., and Conroe, Texas.

Buckeye’s growth in raw numbers pales next to the growth of Phoenix, which grew by 24,536 residents in the same period, to just under 1.49 million people.

“Buckeye offers something unique,” Simmons said. “We experienced the (housing) downturn earlier and we came out earlier.”

City officials said they issued 699 housing permits in 2012, up from 507 in 2011, and that demand for current housing stock started to bounce back as well.

“We had a lot of pent-up demand and a lot of developed lots waiting for demand,” said Kevin Johnson, the chairman of the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce.

He said home values in the town have increased about 25 percent over the last year, about 2 percent per month.

“We were selling houses cheaply” before the downturn, Johnson said, which meant builders had even less room to maneuver when the economy soured.

He said a tightened loan market still has some potential home buyers holding back. “If banking loosened up, (home sales) would go through the roof,” he said.

But the general trend is still up.

“We saw an uptick in activity in the last two years,” Simmons said.

And the town’s economic development manager said he expects that activity to not only continue but to increase.

“Subdivisions have been reabsorbed by new investors and landowners,” said Len Becker, the economic development manager. “We anticipate this to pick up velocity over the next two to three years.”