Affordable housing solutions debated by city, candidates for city council

Local governments play a crucial role in creating affordable housing. They control zoning codes, set design requirements, and rule over the project approval process, all of which impact the price and availability of homes. They can also fund affordable housing programs and encourage development with incentives.

But the Valley’s city and town council candidates disagree on what steps they should take to rectify Arizona’s housing crisis. The state is short 270,000 residential units, according to the Arizona Department of Housing.

Most Phoenix candidates said affordable housing was high on their list of concerns. They proposed streamlining city approval processes, confusing affordable housing projects and incentivizing developers to build affordable units.

“Everyone wants a magic bullet, but there’s no such thing in housing. The only solution is ‘Build, baby, build,'” said Phoenix District 6 candidate Sam Stone.

Meanwhile, candidates in Scottsdale, Gilbert and Peoria favor low-density growth and oppose tall apartment buildings.

“They can build it other places. Just not Scottsdale,” said Pamela Carter, who is running for Scottsdale City Council. “[Residents] I don’t want him here.

The Republic has asked council and mayoral candidates in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Peoria where they stand on affordable housing.

Jump in your city: Phoenix | mesa | Scottsdale | Gilbert | Peoria

Phoenix

More than half of the 16 Phoenix Council candidates named housing affordability as one of their top three concerns.

“We have a city that is no longer a city for everyone,” District 6 candidate Joan Greene said in an email.

Phoenix candidates have almost universally advocated for streamlining the city’s zoning, design approval and clearance processes to expedite new development.

Processes typically take between six months and a year, depending on the mere fact of the project and whether the site needs to be rezoned, according to Deputy City Manager Alan Stephenson.

Some candidates have expressed support for innovative housing models, such as tiny homes and container homes, converting city-owned land into affordable housing and establishing incentives for developers to build affordable units.

Several candidates said they would like to limit the amount landlords were able to raise rent – if the Legislature gave them that power.

“We cannot allow greedy landlords and management companies to take advantage of our residents and gouge them due to a hot housing market,” District 2 candidate Matt Evans said in an email. .

District 8’s Nick Griemsmann also said he was considering capping rents.

A third candidate, Greene, said, “Arizona has a law that prohibits capping the amount of rent increases, which is not an option at this time.”

While state law prohibits municipalities from controlling rents, several Democratic legislative candidates have expressed interest in changing the law if elected.

Mesa

Councilholder and Vice Mayor Jenn Duff, who represents Mesa District Four, said affordable housing is one of her top three concerns for the district. She said the city should incentivize infill housing, fast-track affordable building permits, create a city housing trust fund, and make it easier for landlords to add a secondary suite, or “beautiful suite.” mother”, to their property.

Trista Guzman Glover, Duff’s challenger, pleaded for a more hands-on approach. Mesa should continue to work with nonprofits to identify areas of the city where those organizations could develop affordable housing, she said. She would also like to expedite the project approval process as long as the public comment period is not rushed.

But she disagrees with the creation of a city housing trust fund. Affordable housing should be treated as a regional and statewide issue, she said.

“Municipalities can’t go it alone or we’re faced with a piecemeal approach in Arizona,” she said.

Duff said cities can’t wait for state lawmakers to fix the problem.

“Cities are at the end of the line. We are the ones working with community members and citizens and need to find solutions,” she said.

Scottsdale

The two candidates for Scottsdale’s only Open Council seat both want increased wages for essential workers so they can afford to live in the city.

But the candidates are not in favor of large apartment complexes.

“People in Scottsdale don’t want apartments to happen,” Carter said.

Carter’s opponent, Barry Graham, voted against several buildings of market-rate buildings while on the city’s planning commission, including a four-story mixed-use building near Osborn and Hayden Roads which was finally approved by the City Council. He said he didn’t vote for the project because residents don’t support it.

The candidates also do not want social housing – government-owned housing for very low-income people – in the city.

Carter said she was concerned the public housing would lower the value of surrounding properties, while Graham said he wanted to protect Scottsdale’s “special character”.

Although most research shows that government subsidized housing has little or no negative impact on nearby property values, the results are mixed. A 2022 study found that government-subsidized housing in Chicago actually slightly increased nearby property values ​​in low- and high-income neighborhoods. A 2015 nationwide study showed that subsidized housing increased property values ​​in low-income neighborhoods but decreased them in high-income neighborhoods.

High-quality developments with good management that match the scale and character of the neighborhood are more likely to have a positive or neutral effect on surrounding property values, according to a review of research from the Center for Housing Policy of the National Housing Conference.

Scottsdale does not have government-owned housing but does have a Housing Choice Voucher Program, often known as the Section 8 Voucher Program, which subsidizes market rents for low-income people.

Carter said she would not favor an “Article 8 mandate” in the city. In September, Tucson banned “source of income discrimination,” meaning landlords cannot turn down a rental applicant simply because they have a housing voucher or other government assistance.

Instead of building affordable apartments, Graham said he would support persuading developers to set aside units for workforce housing. This type of housing aims to be affordable for middle-income earners, such as teachers.

Carter disagreed with the idea, saying having a “token” number of workforce housing units doesn’t solve the root problem. She advocated for reducing the time it takes developers to build condos, duplexes and triplexes.

She also pointed to the resources the city already has available, including Community Development Block Grant funds, which are used to support low- and moderate-income families.

Gilbert

Both candidates for Gilbert City Council have said they support new development that meets the needs of the community, but they do not support the construction of larger apartment buildings.

Candidate Bill Spence said the city should analyze socioeconomic data to determine the types of housing the community needs, rather than “blindly” apartments that may not suit residents’ lifestyles.

“We don’t want to build places that no one can afford or pass vacant after the housing crisis is over,” Spence said. “We have to look at what is going to be a good 20-year fit.”

Rental data shows Gilbert has built more than 4,000 new apartments since 2018. The average apartment rent in Gilbert is around $1,900, up more than $300 from last year.

Bobbi Buchli, Spence’s opponent, said she thought Gilbert had enough high-density apartments. She worries that building more will bring additional traffic and crime, stretch city services, and reduce the city’s water supply.

“I don’t think the growth is properly managed,” she said. “And at some point, it’s going to hurt the city.”

Instead, it supports the construction of lower density apartments, townhouses and single-family homes as needed.

Peoria

The Peoria candidates championed high-quality residential development and job growth. Economic development within the city, they said, would provide higher wages, allowing residents to afford more expensive housing and avoid commuting.

Company owner and mayoral candidate Jason Beck said he would focus on “head of house job growth” to boost city wages. He also supported streamlining the build process to allow developers to build faster.

Bridget Binsbacher, executive director of the Cactus League Baseball Association and Beck’s opponent, said she would work to “carefully develop” the city’s housing portfolio “while maintaining the high standards our residents expect.”

Longtime Acacia District Council member Vicki Hunt agreed, stressing the need to create more workforce housing while maintaining quality development standards.

Jennifer Crawford, Hunt’s challenger, said the city should work to attract high-paying businesses instead of just focusing on increasing housing inventory.

The two candidates for the district of Mesquite, Diane Douglas and Brad Shafer, also argued for the economy development that would allow Peoria residents to stay in the community to work, instead of traveling to other parts of the Valley.

Douglas, the state’s former superintendent of public instruction, fueled her campaign with opposition to a market-rate apartment and dining complex near her home that the Board approved in April. Acting council member Brad Shafer voted to move the project forward while serving as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Republic reporters Taylor Seely and Sam Kmack contributed to this article.

Juliette Rihl covers housing insecurity and homelessness for the Arizona Republic.

Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.

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