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ORANGE COUNTY, CA-City officials in Irvine are considering rezoning part of the giant Irvine Spectrum project for homes instead of offices, a move that could help to stem the county’s growing sprawl-related problems.

The proposed change is being welcomed by the renown project’s developer, Irvine Co., which has recently run into trouble leasing up space at the Spectrum and some of its other local commercial developments.

Peggy Schneble, Irvine’s manager of planning and development, says about 514 acres of Irvine Spectrum could be rezoned to accommodate up to 2,500 homes. Most or all of them would likely be sorely needed townhouses, condos or apartments that would help to ease the county’s housing crisis.

A recent report by the California Association of Realtors say barely one-quarter of local households can afford to purchase the area’s median-priced home of $353,480, while brokerage firms say the area’s apartment vacancy factor has tumbled to about 2% because rental supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

If the rezoning is approved, the multifamily units would likely sell or lease quickly. “Not everybody wants to live in a traditional, single-family detached house,” says Schneble. The units would also help to ease traffic and pollution in the area because more people would be able to live within a short distance of their jobs instead of making long commutes, she adds.

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