Mar 21, 2023 - Politics

Lawmaker, cities pushing new plans after Senate kills housing bill

Illustration of a doorknob with a question mark-shaped keyhole.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In the wake of the state Senate's recent rejection of legislation to limit cities' ability to restrict housing through zoning regulations, both the bill's sponsor and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns are pushing alternative proposals.

Why it matters: Arizona is in the grips of a massive housing shortage driving the state's worsening homelessness problem.

State of play: The league has crafted a proposal that would require cities with populations of 75,000 or more to adopt at least three policies from a menu of options.

  • Those include: allowing higher density for developments in or near commercial centers; allowing duplexes, triplexes and mobile or manufactured homes in areas zoned for single-family homes; waiving building permit fees for nonprofits that build affordable housing.
  • The league is also proposing requiring cities to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family neighborhoods; to reduce parking requirements near major public transportation hubs; to offer density bonuses for developments that set aside at least 20% of units for affordable housing; and to increase density in developments that get low-income housing tax credits.
  • Those mandatory provisions were part of the original draft, and Tom Savage, legislative director for the league, said that change will require cities to adopt at least seven new housing policies.

The other side: Sen. Steve Kaiser, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored the defeated housing bill, tells Axios Phoenix he will put a new proposal up for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

  • The plan would require cities to allow ADUs, with restrictions to prevent them from being used as short-term rentals; to allow homeowners to rent rooms to people at least 55 years old; to approve rezoning applications within 180 days and more.
  • Those provisions would apply to cities with populations of at least 25,000.

Catch up quick: Kaiser's original bill garnered bipartisan opposition, with Republicans largely expressing concern over the preemption of municipal zoning requirements and Democrats worrying about the lack of affordable housing requirements.

  • He's abandoning a controversial provision that would have forced cities to permit homes on 4,000-square-foot lots.
  • Before the bill was defeated, Kaiser removed a provision that would have eliminated many municipal height and density requirements for apartments in areas zoned for multifamily, commercial and mixed use.

The intrigue: Kaiser tells Axios Phoenix he believes the new proposal has enough support to pass.

Yes, but: He’s also evaluating the league's latest proposal.

  • Sen. John Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican who opposed SB 1117, tells Axios Phoenix the league's plan is a "reasonable alternative that everyone can live with," saying it probably does more to promote affordable housing than Kaiser's original bill.

Of note: The 75,000-person population threshold would exclude several Valley cities that would be affected by Kaiser's proposal, including Apache Junction, El Mirage and Queen Creek.

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