Lake Wales Housing Land Rush Shows No Sign of Slowing
City Annexes 60-Acre Parcel South of Winn Dixie
Last updated 10/27/2021 at 5:04pm
The rush to develop housing in Lake Wales shows no sign of abating as new proposals continue to come before the Lake Wales City Commission. Tuesday's agenda saw an approval of an annexation that will pave the way for a 90-acre residential development south of the Eastlake Center, which houses Winn-Dixie and Rural King.
The proposed annexation of 62 acres will join them with another 29 already under the same ownership group. If approved for medium density residential development, the site could add several hundred more homes to the more than 8,000 already contemplated under final and preliminary plans submitted to the City's Development Services Division.
Although there are many competing interests proposing new housing developments within the city limits, no one can predict the rate at which the new homes will be built and sold. That will be determined solely by the market. Local housing prices have risen beyond affordability for many due to the high demand.
"It's crazy right now," admitted local Realtor Anne Lazzari of Westlake Realty, relating a story of a 3 bedroom, two bath home which was offered for sale at a price "50 to 100 thousand above what it would bring last year." It was placed on the multiple listing service and received an offer in 13 minutes. A small 2/1 home was sold in days at a price above the ask to a young electrician who had previously commuted to work in Frostproof from Clermont, she added.
The four newly-annexed properties, owned by Hunt Brothers, Inc., CBD Real Estate Investments, LLC, Richard McKinley, and the estate of Vivian Pennachio, wrap around several properties already within the city limits and owned by some of the same group of owners.
"It seems rather like euphoria," Lazzari said of the local land rush. "It's hard to believe" that so many homes will be built in Lake Wales. Yet many in the industry agree that the demand is very real as housing prices nationwide have risen sharply.
According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, median prices for homes in Florida have risen 18.9 percent in the past 12 months, faster than the national average. In the Tampa market that number is 21.2 percent. Prices are currently rising at the fastest rate since 2006.
With "tele-commuting" becoming more popular since the Covid-19 pandemic forced many offices to virtual operations, home builders are taking advantage of a current nationwide housing shortage, snapping up prime development parcels around Lake Wales. There are fewer such tracts remaining closer to urbanized Orlando and Tampa markets.
Development at densities attractive to builders typically requires annexation, since the city is able to provide potable water and sewer services, allowing for smaller lots.
City Commissioner and Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson has balked at approving development that the City cannot properly serve with sewer. His was the lone vote Tuesday night against a Future Land Use map change for a proposed development north of Mammoth Grove Road that would see 95 homes built on quarter-acre lots with septic tanks. The developer is also proposing a commercial enclave called a "Neighborhood Activity Center" for the intersection of Mammoth Grove and Masterpiece Roads.