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Why low-income renters in Arizona have little chance of finding a home

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Housing shortages and rapidly rising rents in Arizona are most damaging to the lowest-income people, and the number of tenants struggling from home is increasing.

According to the latest annual survey by nonprofits, in Metro Phoenix, one of the top 10 metropolitan areas facing the most serious affordable housing shortages, every 100 ultra-low-income earners Only rent for 20 people is available. National Housing Union for Low Income..

Phoenix Area Leads the United States Rent rose 30% last yearAnd rents could rise another 20% this year.

With too few apartments, a growing population, and rents far outpacing income growth, the purchase of a complex in the Phoenix area by corporate investors has created a nightmare for many lessors.

Despite housing vouchers and federal funding going to new programs and apartments, low-income tenants have the fewest options.

James Lawrence and Arlinda Whidehat live in an affordable three-bedroom apartment in downtown Phoenix with two children and a teenage relative. Their monthly rent is about 30% of their income, which is considered a healthy standard of affordability.

“We feel very lucky,” said Lawrence, a recovery support specialist at the care facility. “When I moved here in 2020, it was difficult to find an affordable apartment in a decent place, but now it’s very difficult.”

He said their previous apartment was affordable but in a criminal neighborhood.

The family complex is owned by Native American Connections, which develops affordable homes and offers community programs to help residents.

When Lawrence and Widehat died last year in connection with COVID-19 and had to accept two children, their apartment owners gave them a hardship grant.

Nonprofits were able to maintain rent increases well below the average increase in Metro Phoenix.

Joan Service, Executive Director of the Arizona Housing Union, said: “We need to keep some homes affordable and make sure they are diverse.”

Arizona housing shortage

According to the state’s Housing Department, Arizona needs 270,000 additional homes to deal with the housing crisis.

However, that number could increase due to the record number of affordable complexes purchased by corporate investors who have raised rents and no longer receive housing vouchers.

According to the latest annual survey of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Arizona ranks among the top five states with the most severe affordable housing shortages.

For every 100 families in Arizona, where Arizona’s income is below the poverty line or less than 30% of the median income in the region, there are only 26 affordable rentals available.

No state can afford enough affordable housing for low-income earners, but nationwide, 37 homes are available for every 100 low-income earners.

Rent is affordable if households spend less than 30% of their salary on rent and utilities. The vast majority of low-income households in Arizona spend more than half of their income on housing, leaving little room for savings or emergencies.

“Housing supply is generally inadequate,” said Ashley Ziganuk, a research analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.

The Morrison Institute recently published “” You Feel Like a Failure “: The Experience of Housing Insecurity in Maricopa County,” which uses the words of anonymous focus group participants to explain the affordable crisis.

The study found that in 2021 a two-bedroom apartment could be purchased in the Phoenix Metro area, requiring workers to earn $ 24 an hour. However, many of the people Morrison spoke to in focus groups earned $ 13 to $ 15 an hour.

Wages are not keeping up with rising rents. According to data from online real estate firm Zillow, average rents for Phoenix Metro increased by more than 60% between 2014 and 2021. However, according to wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for the same period has increased by only 23%.

“This is probably not the right word, but RedliningYou’re almost forced to live where it’s not so safe, because you can afford it, “said a Morrison focus group member about renting at Metro Phoenix.

Housing crisis formula

According to experts, the confluence of historical, economic and political factors has created the current housing crisis in Arizona.

Services said that the three biggest barriers to getting affordable housing are political will, financial resources, and community support.

Exciting money has helped raise more affordable housing projects in Arizona, but not my backyardism from planned apartment neighbors so as not to help politicians with them. I’m applying pressure.

at least 30 apartment development stalled Or it was shelved across the Phoenix Metro in 2021 due to NIMBYism, zoning battles and political backlash.

“There is a lot of fierce competition for everything, regardless of price,” said Liza Carts, a research analyst at Morrison. “Because of the historically low vacancy rates across the state, especially in Maricopa County, there are so many applicants for an open apartment that landlords can choose very carefully about who to rent. increase.”

The vacancy rate of Metro Phoenix apartments has been around 4%, which is almost the lowest in 50 years.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the private market is not doing enough to offer housing to low-income lessors at affordable prices.

“The private market alone cannot provide affordable homes for these lessors. Affordable rents for very low-income lessors do not cover the development and operating costs of new homes. , Because landlords often do not provide sufficient incentives to keep the elderly. Housing, according to the National Housing Union.

Rent crunch worsens for some

The rent crisis affects blacks, Latin Americans, and Native Americans disproportionately. These people are likely to be renters and are likely to have very low incomes.

According to the National Housing Union, black renters make up 16% of households that are very low-income renters in Arizona.

Native American renters make up 14% of the state’s lowest-income tenants. Latin renters make up 12% and Asian renters 10%.

Only 5% of very low-income renters in Arizona are white.

About one in five ultra-low-income people across the state is elderly or disabled.

“The historical heritage of racism is acting through economic means in the housing market,” Kurtz said. “There are a series of problems that affect low-income earners disproportionately, which means that people of color also have imbalances.”

Another Morrison focus group participant said, “He has tattoos, so he didn’t take his partner (to the rental office), so they called him” Oh, he’s a gangbanger or something. ” But that’s not the case. ”

Housing solution

Morrison’s research provides these potential solutions to the Arizona rental housing crisis.

Change fair market rents in your neighborhood. Most housing vouchers are associated with rents set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is one rent range set for the entire Maricopa County, which changes only once a year. However, rent varies greatly from valley to valley. Municipalities can work with the HUD to recalculate these set rents and update them more often.

Streamline the Section 8 voucher process for landlords. More and more Arizona landlords, especially recent corporate investors, are not currently receiving housing vouchers because they say they are “bureaucratic and inefficient.” Morrison encourages more local landlords and education programs for vouchers.

Expand the eligibility of public housing. You can increase the income level of Arizona’s low-income tax deduction program to qualify more renters.

Prevents landlords from discriminating against certain incomes. As Arizona real estate owners rely on social security income and housing assistance, legislative and policy changes may be passed or adopted so that the lessor cannot be turned down.

Provides a housing navigator. Many renters gave up, saying it was too difficult to navigate the Metro Phoenix housing aid program. Hiring people to help more renters struggling to apply for and qualify for housing vouchers and other aid will help.

Growing needs: Glendale, Tempe plans to build affordable apartments

last week, $ 5 Million Program It was launched between Maricopa County and HOM Inc., a low-income housing operator, to provide financial incentives and support to landlords. We don’t currently cover Section 8 vouchers, but we may cover them in the future.

President Joe Biden recently Housing Supply Action Plan It aims to eliminate housing shortages within three years by developing a new affordable housing lending mechanism.

In addition, a bill to fund the Arizona Housing Trust Fund of $ 100 million could be passed during the current session.

But the law that limits how much Arizona landlords can raise rent I didn’t even hear.

“I know people whose rent has gone up $ 500 a month. They can’t afford it or can’t find another place to live,” Lawrence said. “It should be insane and illegal.”

Reporting of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] Or 602-444-8040. Follow her on her Twitter @catherinereagor..

Contact the reporter at [email protected] Or 480-417-9311. Follow her on her Twitter @ AmyQin12..

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