PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A new report shows that Arizonans are having difficulty keeping a roof over their heads because of rising rents. According to "Building Arizona" released by the ASU Morrison Institute this week, rental rates have been outpacing the national average for years leading up to a 9.6% increase in 2019, the highest in the nation.
For every 100 Arizonans who need a low-cost place to rent, only 26 affordable homes are available, according to the report.
"I was hoping to come over here, find a good apartment, and stay there," says Teresa Mojica.
The mother of five moved to the Valley from California early in the pandemic when work started to dry up. Mojica had a job waiting for her in Phoenix. Finding a home for her and her five kids was the hard part.
"I thought it was supposed to be cheaper over here," says Mojica.
She was forced to live in her van until she received a call from House of Refuge.
"We do see families that come in that never been in this situation before," says executive director Kayla Kolar.
House of Refuge operates a small Mesa community, offering safe transitional housing for 80 families at a time. The nonprofit has low-cost rentals and support services to help clients eventually move into homes of their own. Kolar says the affordable housing crisis is so dire, the nonprofit has had to change its definition of success.
"We had one family that could not find affordable housing so the solution for them was to move in with grandma," says Kolar.
Divorce or job loss can cause medium-income families to fall into financial despair, says Kolar, and housing options can be less than ideal.
"Building Arizona" offers some solutions, including policies that offer developers incentives to build affordable apartments. The report says, in 2018, 87% percent of large-scale apartment construction in Phoenix was for high-end units.
"If you're a single parent, you struggle," says Mojica.
When her mother died from COVID-19 last summer, Mojica lost a crucial support system. Now that her adult daughter is providing a second income, the family of five now qualifies to move into a two-bedroom apartment next month.
"We work with what we have. We don't wish that we had more, and we definitely don't want less," says Mojica. "My son still has to sleep on the couch, which is fine as long as they're OK."
House of Refuge assists families with help from volunteers and donations. The nonprofit is a qualified charitable organization so contributions may be used for Arizona tax credit up to $400 for single filing and $800 for joint filing.