There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.
Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month.
To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty.
I don’t support tax credits for developers to build affordable housing because that is only one very expensive solution, costing hundreds of millions dollars from the general fund over 20 years. (Remember, HB2732 is only one of more than a dozen tax credits or tax cuts passed by the House Ways and Means Committee and headed for a floor vote. As of Feb. 20, six major “tax shifts” have passed the Arizona House: HB2355, HB2356, HB2293, HB2732, HB2778, and HB2779.)
If you want to tackle the housing crisis, there are many alternatives to giving tax credits to developers. This problem requires a comprehensive approach– not a one and done. Below is a list of housing strategies that Arizona could do. Many of the items have current bills in the Arizona Legislature, but they are not heard because Democrats have proposed them.
To address the supply of low-income and affordable housing, tackle homelessness, help seniors stay in their homes, and protect renters, I propose that the State of Arizona:
- Invest in the housing trust fund because it has a variety of strategies—including but not limited to building new housing, rehabbing existing housing, and offering rent and property tax support;
- Offer subsidized property tax support to low-income seniors to help them stay in their homes;
- Protect neighborhoods from gentrification by encouraging zoning regulations by local governments in the Opportunity Zones (otherwise investors can build whatever they want);
- Regulate short term rentals to protect existing affordable housing stock;
- Repeal the pre-emption bill that says cities can’t designate a percentage of new housing construction as affordable;
- Repeal the landlord bill that allows people to be evicted even after they paid partial rent and stipulates that charities can’t pay someone’s rent;
- Make more section 8 housing available;
- Find and fix tenant-landlord laws that may be contributing to homelessness, high rents, unnecessary fees, or high eviction rates;
- Stop giving local tax breaks to fund the construction of luxury apartments. In recent years 75% of new apartments in Downtown/Midtown Phoenix and Tucson have been luxury apartments;
- Pass Truth in Renting legislation to make leases and landlord fees transparent.
Even if we take a comprehensive approach to tackle housing, until we raise wages, restore safety net benefits, eliminate wage theft and the gig economy, fix our tax structure that favors the rich, and fix the debt crisis in our country– affordability will continue to be a problem.
Let’s not treat the symptom of affordable housing, let’s focus on the disease—poverty. Prevention is always the healthier and more cost effective choice. We need to lift people out of poverty. Let’s save money and save lives.