How are the Valley’s largest cities addressing the housing shortage?

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Posted at 5:53 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 23:31:29-05

In 2020 the Phoenix City Council unanimously approved its housing plan with the goal of creating or preserving 50,000 housing units by 2030.

The decision came after a housing needs assessment showed the City has a shortage of 163,067 housing units. Of those 99,581 units need subsidies for lower-income residents, and 63,486 are needed for residents who can afford market rate. At the time of assessment, the city had a total of 555,013 households.

The Phoenix Housing Plan has nine initiatives including:

  • Prioritize New Housing in Areas of Opportunity
  • Amend Current Zoning Ordinance to Facilitate More Housing Options
  • Enhance Public-Private Partnerships and Increase Public, Private and Philanthropic Financing
  • Building Innovations and Cost Saving Practices
  • Increase Affordable Housing Developer Representation
  • Expand Efforts to Preserve Existing Housing Stock
  • Support Affordable Housing Legislation
  • Education Campaign

“We have zoning incentives to help incentivize developers for affordable housing. We have accessory dwelling units, so that people who own their home would be able to add a unit, they can rent it out for an affordable rental unit,” said Sheree Bouchee, Phoenix affordable housing program manager.

But the redevelopment of city-owned land and existing properties into mixed-income housing is the most visible part of the plan. And the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood is ground zero for those efforts.

“Part of that process is to demolish 577, obsolete public housing units, and build 1000 new units for this community,” Bouchee said. “They'll be sustainable and modern, and really bring a fresh perspective to the community that's really struggled.”

Located one mile east of Downtown Phoenix and south of Interstate-10, the neighborhood was chosen because it held the highest concentration of city-owned public housing. The $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which is funding the redevelopment is targeted to areas with public housing.

In addition to the redevelopment, the program is adding housing to city-owned vacant lots. Soluna Apartments, which are currently under construction, are sitting on what was a vacant lot at Garfield and 19th Streets.

“It will include 177 housing units for rent. There will be some affordable. There'll be also some market rate. So it'll be a mixed-income community” Bouchee said.

75 of the units will be reserved for tenants to use a voucher, 67 units will be workforce housing which means rent will be determined according to a tenant's income, and 35 units will be market-rate with no subsidies, according to Bouchee.

A January 2021 progress report shows creating affordable and subsidized housing is taking longer than market rate.

The city reports that 11,894 total units have been created or preserved. Of those, 1,135 are affordable for low-come residents and 2,416 are workforce housing units that are subsidized but more affordable to moderate incomes. But by far market housing—the most expensive—is what is being created most often with 8,343 units.

In a statement, a city spokesperson told ABC15 the reason is that limited federal funding only allows them to “add a limited number of (affordable) units to the market each year. The current mechanisms for funding and financing subsidized housing are limited.”

Still, ABC15 has found that Phoenix is farther along in its effort to address the housing crisis than some other cities in the Valley.

Mesa, the Valley’s second-largest city by population, has commissioned research but a spokesperson told ABC15 it is “currently working on a balanced housing plan.”

The Valley’s third-largest city, Chandler directed us to its Housing and Redevelopment Strategic Plan which mentions it will “Evaluate and implement rehabilitation of existing housing or replace existing stock with new construction.”

A spokesperson tells me they are in the process of choosing a developer to assist with the redevelopment of its public housing stock. Chandler has 303 city-owned public housing units.