Apr 30, 2024 - News

Discussions on housing bills underway following Hobbs' veto

Illustration of four different people's hands reaching to grab one suburban house.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Negotiations brokered by Gov. Katie Hobbs over possible legislation to alleviate Arizona's housing crisis have been underway since she vetoed a bill intended to foster construction of lower-cost starter homes in March.

Why it matters: The state faces a shortage of 270,000 housing units, according to a 2022 report by the Arizona Department of Housing, while rising prices have made available homes unaffordable for many Arizonans.

Catch up quick: Hobbs in her veto letter called the starter homes bill, which would've prohibited cities from requiring certain aesthetic and design features on single-family homes and barred mandates that people form homeowners associations, "a step too far."

  • She said she was optimistic about separate legislation promoting accessory dwelling units and "middle housing" like duplexes, triplexes and townhomes.
  • But Hobbs at the time said she didn't think her involvement was necessary in any discussions about housing legislation.

The latest: Lawmakers and representatives for cities, homebuilders, Realtors and others have held multiple meetings to discuss possible legislation, which they hope to pass before the session ends.

  • Rep. Michael Carbone (R-Buckeye) told Capitol Media Services he's close to a deal on his bill to increase middle housing in larger cities.

Zoom in: While Hobbs facilitated the meetings, her administration's role has been more of a "referee between opposing sides," said Tom Farley, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of Realtors, which supported the vetoed legislation.

  • The administration hasn't made any proposals or worked to shape potential legislation.

Between the lines: Passing a starter homes bill will "take some give by local governments to give up some of their existing authority," Farley told Axios.

  • Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), who sponsored the starter homes bill, said they're in "middle zone" discussions, figuring out what cities, the governor and other stakeholders can agree on.

The other side: The League of Arizona Cities and Towns, which adamantly opposed the vetoed bill, wants to ensure any legilslation that comes out of the discussions is "narrowly tailored" and doesn't grant a "blanket entitlement" to developers statewide, lobbyist Nick Ponder, who represents the league, told Axios.

What's next: Over the past few weeks, the debate over repealing Arizona's pre-Roe abortion ban has put housing and other issues on the back burner.

  • The next meeting on housing is scheduled for Wednesday, Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) told us.

Reality check: Participants know they face a ticking clock and it could be difficult to get an agreement before the legislative session ends — which could be any time before the end of June, depending on when a budget is passed.

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