Opinion: Arizona cities have cash to spend on affordable housing, yet projects are rejected. That needs to end.
Arizona made an unprecedented commitment in this year’s budget to increase affordable housing development in our state.
The $60 million earmarked for the Arizona Housing Trust Fund, managed by the Arizona Department of Housing, is a first-of-its-kind appropriation aimed at tackling our statewide housing shortage.
It’s an indication of the seriousness of the issue and the state’s effort to give more Arizonans access to affordable housing.
Arizona must build approximately 270,000 new housing units to keep up with surging demand.
To achieve real relief from our housing crisis, this state commitment requires an equally important commitment from municipal governments.
The dueling trends of rising rental housing costs and city/town councils rejecting proposals to build new rental apartments must end.
Projects can’t get built without city approval
These two narratives have been linked, and this cannot continue. Therefore, I’m writing to speak directly to our local elected leaders about the critical role they play in allowing this $60 million to do its job, and how they can assist in solving Arizona’s housing supply crisis.
The crux of the problem is clear: If mayors and council members keep saying “no” to new rental housing developments at a time when our state has a severe shortage, then it’s only fair that they bear some of the burden of responsibility for our affordability crisis.
The same burden applies if they keep driving up the cost of new construction by mandating additions to many proposals.
Either you’re with those of us working to solve the issue of rising rents by recognizing the law of supply and demand and how it impacts the cost of rent, or you’re not.
You either want to help create practical solutions meant to immediately help rent-burdened residents, or you don’t. There is no in-between on this issue.
It’s easy to fall prey to NIMBY forces
Unfortunately, some local elected leaders seem to be more influenced by residents shouting “Not in My Back Yard!” than they are in passing workable solutions for our housing shortfall.
As someone who has run for office himself, I recognize the temptation to curry favor with voters by demonizing rental owners and developers, but the reality is, Arizona’s lack of housing can only be solved by a collaborative effort that unites private-sector businesses, property owners, the Arizona construction sector, neighborhood leaders, and state and local government.
Our state’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that the Arizona Legislature has created a committee to examine ways to reduce local barriers and address critical housing needs across the state.
Our range of initiatives have been successful in helping the state housing department set a record this year in awarding the most affordable housing tax credit dollars ever in the history of our state.
The $60 million for the Housing Trust Fund, new state tax credits that were initiated this year, plus a new state process to qualify for federal tax credits, creates an unprecedented boost for new construction.
Cities have resources. They must use them now
Unfortunately, this won’t happen without zoning and site plan approvals by local governments.
The same is true of every single new rental project, at each and every price point across the rental spectrum. Nothing will get built – and rents will continue to rise – if local elected leaders don’t exert leadership on this issue.
Currently, the Valley’s rental units are at historic occupancy levels, with about 98% of units rented.
With 100,000 new residents moving to the state each year and property owners, like renters, dealing with supply chain issues and inflation (which has driven up payroll costs, materials costs and insurance premiums), we must act now.
With all of our procedural changes, our new state tax credits, and the $60 million to the Housing Trust Fund, there is no valid explanation elected leaders can give renters as to why they had a solution in their grasp, but refused to say “yes.”
Tom Simplot is the director of the Arizona Department of Housing. Reach him at 602-771-1000.
Author: Tom Simplot
Source: AZ Central
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