Condo construction is back in Aurora — sort of

Colorado-based Century Communities announced five new projects in the works between Castle Rock and Westminster. Starting in the mid-300s in Aurora, The Heights community on South Scranton Street will offer 94, three-story, detached condominiums with two- or three-bedroom layouts with two-bay attached garages

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The Heights will be a community of 94 three-story detached condominiums with attached garages on South Scranton Street in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Century Communities

AURORA | A handful of recently-announced housing development projects slated for the Denver Metro area, including condominiums in Aurora, are a definite sign of more growth, but experts say the local market shouldn’t expect to be flooded with new condos anytime soon.

Colorado-based Century Communities announced five new projects in the works between Castle Rock and Westminster. Starting in the mid-300s in Aurora, The Heights community on South Scranton Street will offer 94, three-story, detached condominiums with two- or three-bedroom layouts with two-bay attached garages.

Previous similar projects in Aurora were called patio homes, rather than condos. Detached condos are separate, privately owned homes but the yards and other amenities are jointly owned community areas. Century Communities said the community will be maintenance free, as the yards will be green courts.

Century Communities said the community is designed for “urban commuters” because of its central location, three miles from the R Line’s Iliff Station.

There has been a dry spell for condo building in Aurora the last few years, as Ron Thourpe, an associate professor at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver, puts it.

So the market may see more condo construction pop up in the near future, but it isn’t expected to be overwhelming.

“I don’t think it’s so much the laws that have changed as much as the sentiment from homebuilders,” he said, referencing the construction defects legislation that was signed into law earlier this year.

HB-1279 requires a little more from HOAs before launching a lawsuit against a homebuilder, which Throupe said is important. But “it’s just a starting point, it’s not going to change the world,” he added.

Throupe does believes the law is enough to encourage homebuilders to get their feet wet in building condos, though.

“I’ve talked to some developers who say condos are still as profitable to develop as apartments,” Throupe said.

Likewise, Marcella Barnett, a retired Realtor and member of the city’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Housing and Community Development, said she doesn’t believe the new development is a signal Aurora will be host to a surge of new condo buildings in the near future.

The real question in the market becomes affordability for the buyer. Throupe points out that if a buyer isn’t able to swing a down payment, they’ll often opt for renting because it’s easier.

“I think condos are going to keep being built,” Barnett admitted, but added that for the market, a two-bedroom condo wouldn’t be desirable for a family. And prices over $300,000 push out any low-income buyers.

Throupe said a condo would have to be priced under what a single-family home would cost to attract buyers.

Additionally, any new construction along the R Line would almost have to be condos, Barnett said. But with the risk of the R Line cutting service hours, it leaves a big question mark over whether condos would continue to be desirable in Aurora.  Newly built condos also don’t address a renting problem, Barnett said. And Aurora doesn’t have a land issue like Denver does. So building single-family homes is easy.

Century Communities, which has been building condos since 2002, said it was a demand in the market that allowed them to build the condos. They’re currently building town houses in Murphy Creek and have also built town houses in Beacon Point.

The company is also adding development in Lone Tree, Parker, Westminster and Castle Rock. Those will all be single-family homes.