Downtown Phoenix has a shortage of affordable housing as new apartment high rises are being constructed.
The opportunity for affordable housing for lower-income residents is less readily available because developers are coming to the city and building luxury high rises without accounting for affordable or workforce housing options.
Phoenix City Council candidate, Camaron Stevenson, is an advocate for affordable housing at the Arizona Housing Coalition.
“It’s more prominent now as our Downtown city center is growing more expensively, not only is affordable housing not being available, but residencies for lower-income individuals are getting bought and torn down and luxury condos and apartments are being built in their place,” Stevenson said.
“So, in that regard, there’s more of a reduction more than anything else, especially as the population keeps growing the cost of living is going up but wages aren’t going up. So, what’s already available is becoming less and less affordable,” he said.
Developing more affordable housing isn’t a new issue for the Downtown Phoenix area. The original founder and chief programs officer of HOM, Inc., Sharon Shore, said that the root of the problem goes further back than just new apartments that are currently under construction.
“Historically in the 1980’s the federal government got out of the public housing or affordable housing business so to speak, they thought there were enough bricks and sticks to sustain future needs and went to a bachelor program and at the same time they initiated and expanded the tax credit program thinking that that would be sufficient for development of affordable housing and it wasn’t because tax credit programs only serve the working poor, not the extreme poverty which is where we see most of the issues happening,” Shore said.
The Arizona housing website (https://housing.az.gov/low-income-housing-tax-credit-lihtc-program) states that as part of the Tax Reform of 1986, the United States Congress created the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program to promote the development of affordable rental housing for low-income individuals and families. This means that the program creates the opportunity for people to have access to a restricted lower rent.
After 1986, the 2008 recession made affordable housing programs unavailable to be funded as the housing market crashed.
Stevenson said there was a direct correlation between the rise of evictions and homelessness from the cut of the State Trust Fund in the 2008 recession. The legislature placed a cap on the state housing trust fund that was funded through unclaimed taxes.
Before the cap was placed the state, housing trust fund peaked at $48 million and when the cap was applied the amount of money was used for other needs such as aiding people with job security and relieving the housing market crash. The cap is now at $2.5 million.
The economy has since then bounced back, but the cap on the State Housing fund remains.
The Housing Coalition said that another problem in the affordable housing crisis stems from the fact that there is a misconception that affordable housing means that there is less profit.
“We’re saying that we want more units that qualify for affordable housing vouchers and what that means is that let’s say you can only pay a certain amount and the vouchers cover the rest. The units don’t have to decrease the amount they can keep their rent at the market rate they just have to go through a couple of extra steps to qualify to be affordable units,” Stevenson said.
Developers in Arizona have the choice on whether they want to build luxury apartments for affordable housing, he said.
In context, if more units become qualified, the shortage of affordable housing could decrease and the chances of someone falling homelessness because of the lack of affordable housing is less probable.
The executive director of the Human Service Campus, Amy Schwabenlender, said that some of the people that come in seeking assistance are those that have fallen into homelessness due to the lack of affordable housing.
“There’s a shortage of affordable housing in Maricopa County. They are building all these new apartment complexes but really none of them are for people with low incomes, so as we are working with people out of homelessness you know they are coming in with no income even if they are getting social security they are on a fixed income, there is still a lack of affordability in available apartments to people that are in homelessness,” Schwabenlendersaid.
One solution to the affordable housing shortage has been HOM, Inc. as their mission statements states they operate Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-Housing Programs for vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness and housing instability.
They define the Rapid Re-Housing program as a design to help individuals and families to quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing and it’s offered without preconditions such as employment, income, absence of income, absence of a criminal record, or sobriety.
HOM, Inc. provides a small solution to the shortage of affordable housing in the Downtown Phoenix area. Shore said the future conversation will entail the need to focus on the discrimination of people looking for affordable housing.