Feb 2, 2024 - News

These bipartisan bills could make Arizona housing more affordable

Illustration of a pattern of houses, most of them cut out with emptiness behind them.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Making housing in Arizona more affordable is a priority on both sides of the aisle this year, and there just may be enough political appetite to pass middle-ground solutions.

Why it matters: A combination of Great Recession-induced homebuilding decline and an influx of people moving to the Valley has caused a 270,000-unit housing shortage that's spiked prices.

  • The average monthly rent in Phoenix is more than $1,500, per RentCafe, and prices are even higher in some suburbs.
  • The average median home price is about $445,000, up from $275,000 in January 2020, per Redfin.

Flashback: A bipartisan group of lawmakers reached a compromise on legislation last session that would have allowed denser and taller development, permitted backyard casitas and forced cities to OK more types of housing development.

  • Yes, but: It fell apart after some Republican lawmakers yanked their support in the 11th hour.

State of play: Both Republican and Democratic leadership kicked off this year's session listing housing affordability as a top priority.

  • While some of both parties' wishlists — most notably, Democratic bills that would allow rent caps — won't survive divided government, lawmakers say they're confident some legislation to increase the housing supply will have bipartisan advocacy.

What they're saying: "It's a new year. [Since last session] we have seen our homeless population increase. We have seen more people move to Arizona and the supply not being there to make sure they have a place to live," Democratic Rep. Analise Ortiz tells Axios Phoenix.

What we're watching: These bills backed by members of both parties that might actually make it to the governor's desk:

  • The Arizona Starter Homes Act would prevent cities from requiring community amenities, HOAs, design standards, aesthetic elements and other things that could slow the process to bring housing to market. It passed out of the House Commerce Committee with bipartisan support this week.
  • SB1415, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Anna Hernandez and Republican Senate President Warren Petersen, would require cities with more than 75,000 people to allow backyard casitas.
  • HB2374 would forbid cities from requiring parking minimums for some new housing projects. Developers say abundant parking increases costs, which are often passed on to tenants. The bill is sponsored by Ortiz and Republican Reps. Leo Biasiucci and Michele Peña.
  • HB2576, sponsored by several Republicans and Democrats, would extend Arizona's Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which helps finance affordable housing.
  • HB2510 would require eviction notices to include a link to azcourthelp.org, which includes information on legal aid. It's sponsored by Republican Rep. Teresa Martinez and is expected to have bipartisan support.

The intrigue: Many of these bills will face criticism from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, which advocates for local control.

  • "Some bill proposals being considered by the Arizona Legislature will thwart the successes made by city and town leaders, remove resident participation in the development of their neighborhoods and weaken or eliminate local consideration of residents' desires and needs," the League said in a statement to KJZZ.

Of note: Gov. Katie Hobbs tells Axios Phoenix she had not seen specifics of either party's proposals.

  • Asked whether she's willing to preempt cities' ability to impose zoning, HOA or other restrictions, Hobbs says, "I would like to see something that strikes the right balance between our ability to build faster and local control."
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