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Three Phoenix schools are facing closures due to lack of affordable housing

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Posted at 3:38 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 21:27:46-05

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Elementary School District is working on a proposal that could impact 750 students.

The district is looking into closing three of their elementary schools that include Emerson School, Dunbar School, and Faith North preschool.

Dunbar Elementary currently sits at 277 students, down 13% in enrollment numbers from 2015-2019 and Emerson Elementary currently has 337 students, down 20% in the same time period.

The students would be divided and sent to other nearby schools if the proposal is approved.

The two reasons for the closure are because of the declining birth-rate and lack of affordable living.

Before the recession, the birth rate was at 1,300 and now it is at 900 in the Phoenix Elementary School District.

"One of the things plaguing public schools is this housing crisis," says Camaron Stevenson with the Arizona Housing Coalition. The group which he represents is an advocacy think tank that encompasses over 200 organizations looking to bring about fair housing across Arizona. "The numbers for affordable housing across the country are bad but Arizona is one of the worst."

According to data generated by ABC 15 Data Guru and Zillow, the rent in downtown has gone up 40 percent since 2010.

"The rise in rent has not kept up with the rise in wages and so that's why we are seeing a major disparity in the availability of affordable housing," says Stevenson.

A spokesperson for the district tells us that the student population at their 14 schools is primarily low income. 85% of their schools are considered Title I. In one of the schools listed with the downward enrollment numbers, the wages have actually decreased since 2011 going from roughly $33,000 household income to $31,000.

The Phoenix Elementary School District's governing board will be hosting a meeting on December 12 to gain permission to schedule a public hearing next month.

A vote is expected to happen in February.