COTTONWOOD, AZ — At the Pines Inn and Suites Hotel in Cottonwood, Arizona, it’s not just tourists calling to book a night.
“Mainly, it’s also people who can’t find rental properties,” said General Manager Martha Bruening.
But it’s now their busy season and Bruening says they can’t accommodate them all.
Maria, for example, has lived at the hotel since March.
“I haven’t felt that hopelessness yet,” she said. “But I certainly feel the frustration and not just for myself. I feel it for those around me who I see going through the same thing.”
Maria works in Sedona and says she’s unable to find an affordable place to live. She says online postings for rental properties receive numerous offers and are taken down within a few hours. In one case, a waiting list for an apartment complex had up to 100 people. She says if she wasn’t staying at the hotel, she’d probably have to move to Phoenix.
“I love the people I work with so it would’ve been a real upheaval for our life which is another reason why I’m trying to stay steadfast in hoping something will open up and just keep searching and trying to save as much money as I can,” she said.
Shannon Boone was camping throughout Arizona when she fell in love with the Verde Valley.
“I definitely knew I wanted to work here and when I saw the housing manager position posted I said, 'that’s perfect, they just described me,'” she said.
Boone was soon hired to help solve this housing crisis, as the new housing manager for Cottonwood and Sedona. But even she had a hard time finding a place to live upon permanently moving to the area for her job.
“I decided just to stay in a campground in my teardrop camper once I could find a place,” Boone said. “I could’ve stayed in a hotel, but I thought this might be two weeks, it might be a month, who knows and I have a camper and pets so it was really the easiest solution.”
Boone eventually found a place to live, and she is now working with city leaders to find solutions. The lack of housing has caused a ripple effect on how the city operates.
“Everything from folks we’re trying to hire, they call us back and reconsider the offer because they can’t find a place to live. I’ve had employees push back start dates,” said City Manager Ron Corbin. “We have several restaurants in town that now close one day a week because they don’t have enough employees.”
In Arizona, cities can’t regulate the number of short-term rental properties in their area. Corbin says he believes that in part is what’s contributing to this problem. He says the city recently did a housing study and is now using its findings to attract more developers. He’s asking for people who live in the city, or who are just visiting, to have some patience.
“There’s hope,” he said. “We didn’t get in this situation overnight. We’re working on all sorts of programs... we have in the next few years hundreds of rooftops being built.”
The Cottonwood city council recently passed a down-payment assistance program. Corbin says he hopes that will help some residents looking for a more permanent place to live.