Police, firefighters and teachers getting priced out of Arizona housing market

Updated: Feb. 1, 2022 at 11:17 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Essential workers are increasingly getting priced out of the Phoenix area’s red-hot real estate market, and it’s only going to get worse unless drastic action is taken. That is according to a report delivered to the Arizona House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

“This is not something that is going to get better by itself,” said Elliott Pollack, a longtime Phoenix-area economist. Pollack compiled the report titled, “Current State of the Greater Phoenix Housing Market.” It was sponsored by the organization Home Arizona.

The findings are stark, and they elicited a somber reaction from the Commerce Committee chair, Jeff Weninger, a Republican from Chandler. “That is enlightening and a little scary,” said Weninger when Pollack finished the presentation.

Among Pollack’s findings:

  • The median home price in the Phoenix area rose 216 percent since 2000, but the median salary only rose 48 percent.
  • By 2025, it is possible that only 21 percent of the Valley’s population will be able to buy a home.
  • Police officers, firefighters, school teachers, construction workers and those who work in retail are already priced out of the home-buying market, and are already priced out or close to being priced out of the rental market.

Pollack said the problem is that home-building did not keep up with the Valley’s growth in population. And it’s affecting every Valley community, from entry-level homes to mansions. “You need to do something at any price point, at any income level,” said Pollack.

According to Pollack, the only solution is to build thousands of new homes and apartments. But the inventory shortage may not be the only cause of the high prices.

Arizona’s Family Investigates obtained data from the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office that shows Wall Street investors and private equity firms have bought thousands of homes across the Valley and turned them into rental properties.

One company, alone, owns more than 8,500 rental homes in the Phoenix area. With the tight real estate market, critics say these firms have driven up rent prices.

“If we can be greedy, let’s be greedy. This is a free-for-all state,” said Ken Volk, who is the president of Arizona Tenants Advocates, which is a tenants union.