May 4, 2023 - Politics

Bipartisan group of lawmakers urges support for trio of housing bills

A woman speaks at a microphone behind a lectern while surrounded by several other people.

Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Jeremy Duda

A bipartisan group of lawmakers looking to alleviate Arizona's housing crisis through zoning and other reforms is rallying support for a trio of bills they hope can avoid the fate of a proposal rejected earlier this year.

Driving the news: Nearly a dozen lawmakers gathered at the Capitol's Rose Garden Wednesday morning to urge their colleagues to support the proposal, which has languished since March.

  • Sen. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, has abandoned efforts to revive his housing bill, which was defeated in the Senate.
  • Instead, he and allies on both sides of the aisle are pinning their hopes on three proposals that contain many provisions from the defeated legislation.

Details: The bills largely pertain to affordable housing and limitations on municipal zoning.

  • SB1161 would require cities of more than 525,000 people (Phoenix, Tucson and soon Mesa) to allow low-income rental housing in areas zoned for commercial, multifamily or mixed use within a half-mile of light rail or streetcar stops.
  • SB1163 would force cities with populations over 30,000 to allow zoning for duplexes and triples, would restrict their ability to limit total housing units per acre, and would require them to permit smaller lots. Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, tells Axios that last provision will be removed.
  • HB2536 would restrict cities' ability to impose aesthetic and off-street parking requirements, would force them to allow single-room rentals and accessory dwelling units, would set a time limit for approving zoning applications, and would prohibit cities from adopting more restrictive zoning requirements.

Between the lines: Kaiser tells Axios Phoenix that splitting the proposals into three will allow each to pass with different coalitions. When it was a single bill, lawmakers found varying reasons to reject it.

  • He noted different coalitions of lawmakers passed SB1161 and SB1163 in the House Commerce Committee.
  • Ortiz tells Axios Phoenix she and Kaiser agreed on SB1161 after Senate Democrats cited the lack of affordable housing requirements as their reason for voting against the housing bill.

What they're saying: "Arizona's housing shortage has caused an entire generation, my generation, to be locked out from equal opportunities, to achieve home ownership and accrue generational wealth," Ortiz said at the press conference.

The other side: The League of Arizona Cities and Towns opposed Kaiser's previous bill and is against the current bills too, says Nick Ponder, whose firm represents the organization.

  • He tells Axios Phoenix the proposals would limit south Phoenix residents' ability to provide input on Central Avenue development along the pending light rail, imposes too many zoning restrictions, and doesn't allow municipalities to address the effects that developments have on neighboring residents.
  • Ponder describes the bills as "giveaways" to developers.
  • The league crafted a proposal that would require cities to allow accessory dwelling units, limit parking parking requirements, permit height and density bonuses for multifamily housing and increase density for low-income housing.

What we're watching: Kaiser and Ortiz say they're working on getting the votes for all three bills but say they don't know when they might get floor votes.

1 big veto stamp: Ortiz says Gov. Katie Hobbs has not yet told lawmakers what she wants in the housing bills.


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