GLENDALE, AZ — From the dishwasher to the microwave, everything in Deborah Ulloa's apartment is brand new. The two appliances she's most excited about, are the washer and dryer.
"I told my son, 'Oh my God, we do not have to go to the laundromat anymore!'" she told ABC15 as she showed us around her unit at Bethany Crossing in Glendale.
Ulloa and her teenage son were one of the first families to move into the 72-unit complex. It was developed by the non-profit UMOM which focuses on housing families with low incomes or who are experiencing homelessness.
Ulloa said she lived in a nearby complex and her rent for the one-bedroom she shared with her son would be more than $1,100 upon renewal. While under construction, Bethany Crossing was on her route when walking to the grocery store and she kept an eye on the apartments. Eventually, when the office opened up, she found out they were income-based, and she applied. Within two weeks she was approved.
"I literally signed my lease June 30. And she (the leasing agent) explained to me how much I would need to bring in on July 2. And got my key," she said.
The rent for her brand new two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment: $619 per month.
Median rent for a similar place in Glendale is $1,430, according to rental listing website Zumper.com.
"My son literally leaned over, and he hugged me. And he said, 'How did we get here?' And I told him, 'God,'" Ulloa said.
UMOM CEO Jackson Fonder said the complex was constructed specifically to keep the units affordable for families like Ulloa's who are struggling to make ends meet.
"We know the gap between the haves and the have-nots continue to grow, continues to grow dramatically," he said.
The non-profit has built 10 affordable complexes in the past 10 years, totaling about 600 units.
In the past, the only way to do it was to apply for the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).
Each year, the Internal Revenue Service gives the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) an allotment of credits. Affordable housing developers apply, and those that are chosen sell the tax credits to help raise the initial funds for subsidized apartment complexes.
In 2020, Arizona received about $20 million in federal tax credits that went to 12 projects and are expected to produce 1,022 units, according to the ADOH.
But during the 2020 legislative session, for the first time, Arizona created its own housing tax credit program to be funded at $4 million per year over the next 10 years.
No word yet on how many units that amount is expected to create, but Fonder said whatever the number, it won't be enough to fill the need.
"What I'd like to see is more policy in that area that continues to push the envelope, increase the inventory of affordable housing. That's what's going to make a difference," he said.
He says Arizona needs to make a much larger investment if it's going to fill the 136,000-unit affordable housing shortage.
"We've got to double, triple and quadruple these efforts. And I'm not alone. My colleagues are saying the same thing. And there are experts in this area that are ringing this bell loudly," he said.
Ulloa knows she's one of the lucky ones. "How much more blessed can I get?" she said.
Because affordable rent means her family can stop surviving and start living.
"I'm here speaking, and I'm here living and I'm here happy. You know, and my son is at peace. Because he feels safe."
Click here to see other UMOM rental properties and those that are under development.