New home buyers are building in West Richland in record numbers.
The city saw a record number of new single-family home permits in March with 30. With one more already in April, West Richland has issued 45 permits for new homes this year, compared with 32 during the same time last year.
"We weren't anticipating this much activity this year," said Bob Leedy, West Richland's director of planning and community development.
From conversations with builders last year, Leedy said he was anticipating a drop in home building activity. The unexpected increase will help the city's bottom line because building permit revenue goes into the general fund.
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Last year, the city added 118 new homes.
West Richland was the only one of the four cities to see an increase in single-family homes being permitted so far this year, according to data from the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.
Kennewick and Pasco have seen a drop in permits compared with last year, while Richland is even with last year.
Todd Rowell, owner of Sullivan Rowell Homes in Kennewick, said part of West Richland's appeal is its country feel. And it still is close to amenities such as those that have expanded in the Queensgate area of Richland.
Rowell said his company could build between 15 and 20 homes in West Richland this year, although it is too early to tell. He also builds in Kennewick and Pasco.
"The market is definitely rebounding, and sales are absolutely picking up," Rowell said.
West Richland is a desirable place to live for people who are moving into the area, said Rene Dahlgren, Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities director of government affairs.
Land is available in West Richland, she said. The city has been working to bring in more commercial business, and to do that, it needs more residential development, so it has worked with builders and developers, she said.
Most new construction is happening in new subdivisions on the western edge of West Richland, Leedy said.
The city has an inventory of about 171 lots platted and ready for construction, he said. That's fewer than he'd like to see, since most of that could be used this year if the current pace continues.
But another 128 lots likely will be added this year, Leedy said. Several subdivisions with 12 to 30 lots are proposed for the western end of town.
Increasing the city's population also can help when trying to attract new commercial development, Leedy said. That's a challenge for West Richland, being on the edge of the Tri-Cities. The city has to rely on its own population for trade, he said.
"I think people feel they get the real bang for their buck in West Richland," Leedy said.