PHOENIX — Every day Scott Garcia leaves his home in east Mesa for work, a drive that can be as quick as 30 minutes or as long as an hour and a half. Garcia teaches at Carl Hayden High School in southwest Phoenix.
"I've talked to tons of teacher friends and the first thing they say is, 'That drive. I can't do it,'" Garcia said. "The morning traffic or the afternoon traffic, it's two hours of your life. You know, gone."
Garcia may prefer to live in Phoenix so he can live closer to work, but with a wife and three children he says he can't afford it. As rents and the price of homes rise in Phoenix, many workers now spend at least 30 percent of their salary on housing. Garcia is not alone in looking elsewhere to live.
Chris Mackay, director of community and economic development for Phoenix, says 90 percent of the people who work in the city have commute times of 30 minutes or less. The exact opposite, Mackay says, of what workers in northern California are confronted with when they go to and from work each day. But Mackay acknowledges the challenge is "to keep the cost of living at a reasonable level."
Attracting new business often comes with the promise employees will be able to live close to where they work. As some of the city's earliest neighborhoods are revitalized, Phoenix is using land it owns, like the Luke-Greenway American Legion Hall on 7th Avenue, to create mixed-use developments which will include workforce and affordable housing.
"To attract really good, quality jobs to the market," Mackay says, "we want to make sure it's a livable environment for everyone who wants to live in Phoenix." He says a big part of that providing affordable and workforce housing for those working as teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses and our support staff.
Mayor Kate Gallego will present her plan to increase affordable and workforce housing options in her State of the City address scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
"You can't push out the community that you bought up by replacing it with more high-cost living," says Elizabeth Singleton, director of the non-profit Build Us Hope, which constructs tiny homes for homeless veterans.
Her organization wants to expand to supply tiny homes for workforce housing. When asked how quickly Build Us Hope could build and occupy 1,000 homes, her answer was "tomorrow." But Singleton says it will take work for that to happen.
"We need to address as a state our density issues and our zoning issues so affordable housing can actually be affordable."