#AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

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. 

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 in Opportunity Zones, 
  • 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.

How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

sleeping baby

Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.

Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of our children.

In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Continue reading How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

#HB2388: Big Brother Meets Aunt Lydia (video)

With big data surveillance, church recruitment, government-funded, incomplete and biased medical information, and unregulated clinics providing “all wrap-around pregnancy, counseling and post-childbirth services”, HB2388 is Big Brother and Aunt Lydia’s love child.

Last week was draining– with multiple tax cuts in Ways and Means, fake pregnancy centers in Health and Human Services (HB2388), and passage of the Build Your Own Border Wall on the House floor on reconsideration. (Another Zombie Bill brought back from the dead).

I recorded the video (below) late in the day on Thursday after the end of a two-part, marathon health committee meeting with multiple ideological debates. I am proud to serve with Dr. Amish Shah, and Reps. Kelli Butler and Alma Hernandez. The four of us did a great job standing up for patient choice, reproductive rights, medically accurate and unbiased information, science, privacy and separation of church and state.

Continue reading #HB2388: Big Brother Meets Aunt Lydia (video)

If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

If Arizona is truly a “pro life” state, it’s time to think big on maternal and child health rather than thinking small. Let’s go beyond the womb with our “pro-life” ideals and help Moms and their children lead healthier, safer lives.

I have met with more than 100 people and analyzed the data, the needs, the costs, and the gaps in services in maternal and child health in Arizona for more than a year.

The bottomline is that Arizona has stingy policies, cumbersome bureaucracy, and unnecessarily lengthy application procedures that cost money and lives and limit access to healthcare. I ran on this issue in 2015, and five years later, I am shocked at how right I was.

Did you know that Arizona is dead last– #50 — in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? ACEs include food insecurity, housing insecurity, loss of parent(s) due to incarceration, death, addiction or abandonment and similar sad scenarios.

Did you know that only 6% of the people eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Need Families) in Arizona actually get it? Not even all Arizonans living in extreme poverty get TANF.

Did you know that women, who are eligible for AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid system), are coming to indigent clinics pregnant with no prenatal care, no insurance, and no money?

It is morally unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible to deny basic healthcare, food security, housing security, and a solid education Arizona’s children and their parents.

Continue reading If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Thanks for the poverty

Working for a living is hard. You have to get out of bed early, get dressed… maybe even put wear a silly uniform that you were required to purchase… drop the kids off at school, drive around to find parking or sit on a bench waiting for the bus, rush to work to be on time, and repeat in reverse after work a few hours later. If you are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, the complexity and aggravation of daily life grow exponentially … one grueling day after another.

Decades ago, Wall Street bankers learned that making money off of other people by charging fees for absolutely everything their accountants can think of… and then charging late fees upon those fees… is an fast route to Easy Street. Banks and other lending institutions are masters at making money from fees (as opposed to real work).

The Fee Game is now pervasive across Corporate America. As a result, We the People are getting fleeced at every turn. People complain about high taxes from the government, while Corporate America is slipping billions of dollars out of our pockets in service fees, administrative fees, application fees, late fees, nonpayment fees, stop payment fees, online payment fees, nonrefundable deposits, usurious interest rates,  junk health insurance, unaffordable health insurance premiums, co-pays, coinsurance, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder people are strapped for cash. We’re being nickel and dimed into bankruptcy by Corporate America, while Congress and state Legislatures bend over backwards to be “business friendly.” For more about The Fee Game and how lucrative it is… read on…

Continue reading Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Democracy Now: Compelling Stories about Extreme Wealth & Extreme Poverty in California (video)

Safe Park Homeless camp 2015
Safe Park Dream Pod, Tucson 2015
Safe Park Dream Pods for Tucson homeless,  2015

Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now radio show has a long history of hard-hitting, investigative journalism. Today’s show (October 25) juxtaposed Progressive Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib grilling Facebook CEO with a story about homelessness in California.

These stories represent the two sides of California– a land of extreme wealth and innovation that also houses 50 percent of our country’s homeless population, according to Goodman.

Excerpted from “State of Emergency”: Special Report on California’s Criminalization of Growing Homeless Encampments

“In a Democracy Now! special report, we look at the rise in homelessness in many major cities across the United States. California has become the poster child for this economic and humanitarian disaster, with growing encampments in Los Angeles and the Bay Area as more people are forced onto the streets. The state is home to 12% of the country’s population but half of the country’s unsheltered people. As the crisis deepens, so has the criminalization of homelessness, with increasing efforts by city and state officials to crack down on unhoused people occupying public space. President Donald Trump made headlines this month for attacking California’s politicians over the homelessness crisis, threatening to destroy encampments, increase police enforcement and even jail unhoused people. But advocates say California has already employed hostile policies that criminalize homelessness, from laws against unsheltered people sitting on sidewalks to frequent sweeps of the encampments that have popped up on thoroughfares and under freeways across the state’s cities. One of these crackdowns is currently unfolding at a massive Oakland encampment that Democracy Now! visited just a few weeks ago.”

Watch the video and read the story here.

 

 

 

Housing, Homelessness & Gentrification: What Is the Path Forward?

homelessness

Where do the mayoral candidates stand on affordable housing, low-income housing, and homelessness?

I think that’s a great question, and I hope to find the answers at the upcoming Mayor and Ward 1 City Council Candidate Forum on Saturday, June 22.  The event will be held at El Rio Center, from 12 noon – 2:30 p.m. and will moderated by Nancy Montoya from Arizona Public Media. According to the Blog for Arizona Calendar, the three Democrats running for Mayor and the four running for Romero’s Ward 1 seat are expected to participate.

What is the state of housing in Arizona?

Arizona’s Housing Crisis: Has the Legislature Done Its Part?

As rents and evictions increase, housing has become a huge issue across Arizona. Housing– like prison reform and charter school reform– got a lot of lip service in the Arizona Legislature in 2019. During the session, there were many opportunities to tackle the housing crisis in a meaningful way, but those bills died.

On a high note, the Legislature allocated $10 million for the Housing Trust Fund in the FY2020 budget, which begins in a few weeks. The Housing Trust Fund used to be $40 million per year until the Tea Party Reign of Terror swept the funds and left only ~$2.5 million in it. (Of course, back then, tax cuts were far more important than helping people keep roofs over their heads.)

Continue reading Housing, Homelessness & Gentrification: What Is the Path Forward?

UPDATED: Multiple Bills Look at Housing, Homelessness (video)

I published this original blog post and video on March 30, 2019– back when I thought the Arizona Legislature would take some serious steps toward solving the state’s housing crisis.

The original article focused on five housing-related bills that passed the Senate and passed through my committees (SB1471, SB1336, SB1539, SB1383, and SB1098) and on the issue of restoring full funding to the Housing Trust Fund.

Early last Tuesday morning, May 28, 2019, was sine die, the last day of the session. The Housing Trust Fund was not restored to full pre-recession funding ($40 million of designated funds from unclaimed property), but it did get $10 million. The only bill from the above list that made it to the Floor of the House was SB1539, but it was changed dramatically, which resulted in a party line vote.

I really regret the demise of SB1471 (help for homeless youth and families) and SB1383 (property tax assistance for widows and the elderly).  The community groups backing SB1471 came up with a procedure to collect capitol gains tax on sales of Arizona property by out-of-state sellers. The Legislature said “thanks for the collection idea”. That procedure was adopted and put into the budget, but the earmark for homeless youth and families was eliminated. (Grrr…) SB1383 is a Maricopa County only program that helps widows and the elderly pay their property taxes; I think it should be expanded to statewide to help these people age in place. Instead, it was no heard in House Appropriations or Rules.  On a bright note, the affordable housing tax credit bill– which would have costs the state over $90 million in the coming years– died again.

Continue reading UPDATED: Multiple Bills Look at Housing, Homelessness (video)

Housing for Homeless Youth & Families (video)

Safe Park Dream Pod, Tucson 2015

Homelessness, transitional housing, low-income housing and affordable housing are obviously big problems in the state of Arizona. There is a mixed bag of several bills in the legislature that deal with different parts of the housing problem.

Today’s video focuses on SB1471 which provides a creative funding mechanism to put up to $10 million per year in the Housing Trust Fund for homeless youth and families. There are no federal HUD funds for this population. This is one of several bills.

SB1471 sets up a process for the state of Arizona to collect capital gains taxes on sales of Arizona property owned by out of state individuals. Apparently, compliance with capital gains taxes owed by out-of-state investors is less than 30%. This bill is projected to make around $8 million of year and could go higher. If more than &10 million is collected the excess goes into the general fund.

Continue reading Housing for Homeless Youth & Families (video)