The housing crisis in the valley, a “growing cancer”
ASU Project Humanities Roundtable Addresses Roots of Crisis
The housing crisis in Arizona can be defined in many ways. Let’s start with some numbers:
According to real estate website Redfin, the median selling price of a home in Phoenix rose from $325,000 in January 2021 to $404,300 in October 2021, an increase of 24.4%.
The average rental property, in real dollars, was $1,034 in 2017. Today it’s $1,537 — and that figure is expected to rise to $2,475 in five years if demand continues to outstrip supply.
Economist Elliott Pollack told azcentral.com that “this is the worst imbalance between supply and demand for housing I have ever seen. We are on the verge of a very serious problem.
It’s not about waiting for the market to correct itself, according to Rashad Shabazz, associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation.
“We can’t believe the market is going to take care of it anymore,” Shabazz said. “We can’t make all housing market-driven. It doesn’t work, and it didn’t work at first. The belief that the market is going to correct itself is going to be the savior…that’s why we’re here in the first place.
Shabazz was the moderator on Thursday of a panel discussion hosted by ASU’s Project Humanities to discuss Arizona’s affordable housing crisis. For 90 minutes, panelists explored the reasons for the crisis, the impact on homelessness and what needs to be done to address the issue.
Camaron Stevenson, editor of the Copper Courier, a civic communications outlet in Arizona, and previously director of communications for the Arizona Housing Coalition from 2018 to 2020, said part of the problem was the lack of regulation on landlords. .
“There are no state, local or national requirements for landlords to provide housing at certain prices,” he said. “Their only obligation is to get as much money out of the house as possible.”
Stevenson also cited the number of companies buying homes. In 2021, businesses bought 31% of single-family homes in Arizona, according to CoreLogic, a California-based data analytics firm.
“If you have everything you need to buy a house, you have the loan lined up, the down payment ready to go, and you can make a mortgage of $1,500 a month, but a big company is buying the house for money. money, there’s nothing you can do, and then you rent from this company for $2,000 a month,” Stevenson said.
It’s not just a question of affordability, but of accessibility.
“In 2018, people could have bought a house. But with the same resources, the same means, the same amount of money they saved, there are no homes available today at that price,” Stevenson said.
“Then they might consider other options, places where housing is more affordable but with less accessible services or school systems might be worse for their children,” he said.
Nic Smith, vice president of real estate development for Chicanos Por La Causa, said the crisis is partly because supply hasn’t kept up with demand. From 2001 to 2010, more than 487,000 new homes were built in Metro Phoenix. From 2011 to 2020, that number has dropped to 240,000. Meanwhile, 880,000 new residents are expected to move to the valley during this decade.
But, Smith added, the housing industry is an easy target and house prices reflect other societal issues, a point echoed by Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Housing Coalition.
“If you want to drill it down to the simplest nature, house prices are rising and wages are often stagnant or, due to inflationary factors, falling,” Serviss said. “This not only impacts evictions, but also people who live in precarity, who do double jobs just to keep up, or who live on the streets.”
Stevenson called the housing crisis a “growing cancer” that began with discriminatory practices like redlining – “it specifically targeted blacks, Latinos and people of color” – but spread to all segments of society. society, except the wealthy.
“It’s everywhere,” he says. “The people you see who are homeless, asking for money or setting up camps, that’s such a small part of the people who don’t have a place to live. People are living temporarily with members of their family or live in cars, motels or hotels because they can’t save enough money for a deposit or because they have a conviction on file.
“Just because someone doesn’t have a place to live or lives in their car doesn’t mean they don’t have a full-time job. It’s not uncommon. Fifteen or $16 an hour pays for food and gas, but it won’t get you a place to live. You see examples of people working hard and doing all they can to support themselves and their families and it doesn’t really matter.
Shabazz said one of the hidden costs of the housing crisis is its impact on the environment.
“People have to drive 30, 40, 50 minutes or even an hour and a half every day to get to work because the center of economic activity in the valley is the central corridor and they cannot afford to drive. ‘to live.
“That means people have to go from Maryvale to downtown, or from Apache Junction to downtown, and that has this deep carbon impact. It makes our already hot city hotter and produces more smog in a smog filled city.
A woman attending the event asked if a possible solution was to allow zoning for less expensive tiny homes.
“Right now, frankly, the demand isn’t there,” Smith said. “To come up with a project with 200 square foot or 300 square foot houses, you have to have a lot of people willing to live in a small living space.”
More concretely, Stevenson said it’s important for tenants to not only learn about their rights, but to advocate for change in the state legislature.
“Find out who is representing you and ask for ways to vet landlords,” he said. “Right now, there’s no limit on what landlords can charge, how much rent increases, or how long they have to give you before you move out.”
Stevenson also said it was essential that public defenders be made available to convicted tenants.
“Over 90% of tenants don’t have legal representation when they go to court,” he said. “But if someone has legal representation, it greatly increases the chances of someone not being deported.”
The panelists all agreed on one fact: there is no easy or immediate solution to the current crisis.
“The contradictions between labor market forces and the lack of available housing really conspire to put people in a very precarious position,” Shabazz said.