Arizona’s housing crisis focus of new bipartisan legislation

Rents in Phoenix surged nearly 28% in the last year, according to the data research firm...
Rents in Phoenix surged nearly 28% in the last year, according to the data research firm Apartment List.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Feb. 2, 2022 at 10:28 AM MST
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PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s housing crisis is the focus of new bipartisan legislation announced Wednesday that aims to increase the supply of low income units and set aside $89 million to combat homelessness. State Representatives Steve Kaiser, a Republican, and César Chávez, a Democrat, said their proposed law would improve housing availability and affordability in every part of Arizona.

The Phoenix-based lawmakers said their measure would address the state’s housing shortfall and rising home payments and rents have made housing costs burdensome for many Arizona residents. “We need a statewide response to this crisis,” said Kaiser, the legislation’s lead sponsor. “The demand for housing has never been higher. Occupancy rates are at 98%, which is a 40-year high.”

“For every one rental home in metro Phoenix there are 20 people applying,” he added. Kaiser said it is estimated that 270,000 additional housing units need to be constructed to keep up with the demand. He said the legislation would help clear the way for faster building by eliminating onerous zoning and permit requirements imposed by local jurisdictions.

The bill would also allocate $89 million from Arizona’s state general fund in fiscal year 2022-2023 to the Housing Trust Fund to create more housing for the growing homeless population.

Rents in Phoenix surged nearly 28% in the last year, according to the data research firm Apartment List. The firm reported that median rents in Phoenix last month stood at $1,217 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,486 for a two-bedroom.

Eviction filings against renters struggling to pay those prices in Arizona’s largest county are on the upswing after a lull during the coronavirus pandemic. The Maricopa County Justice Courts on Tuesday released preliminary data showing filings last month reached their highest level in almost two years.

January was the first time since February 2020 that more than 5,000 eviction filings had been recorded in one month in Maricopa County, which is home to Phoenix and handles the bulk of evictions statewide. The filings have slowly crept up since August, when an eviction moratorium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expired. The temporary ban was imposed to protect tenants struggling to pay rent amid the pandemic’s economic disruption.

Emergency rental assistance funds from the federal government have been credited with preventing a tsunami of evictions since the ban ended. Maricopa County announced Wednesday it has received $39 million more in federal funds to help renters facing eviction because of non-payment or utility shutoffs.

A new analysis recently ranked the top 20 cities for highest rent hikes, and six of them are in Arizona. Of those, two are in the top five, and only New York City and Tampa, Florida were ranked higher than Scottsdale.

Ken Volk, president of the Arizona Tenants Advocates, says rent hikes are happening all over the Valley. “A lot of people calling about rents going up; a lot of people [are] needing to move,” he said. “I have people whose rents are going up $800-$900 a month.” Volk says the supply chain cannot keep up with demand. There aren’t enough places for people to live right now.

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