According to the nonprofit National Low Income Housing Coalition and its latest annual survey, Arizona ranks in the top five states where the affordable housing shortage is most devastating.
Factors that have been worsening the housing crisis include a surplus of single-family housing coupled with a lack of gentle density housing, a growing population of roughly more than 100,000 new Arizonans per year, rent increases outpacing wages, skyrocketing costs of raw materials and construction, and corporate investors buying up properties en masse, especially in the Phoenix metro area.
The survey states that metro Phoenix is one of the top 10 metro areas facing the most severe affordable housing shortages, where only 20 rentals are available for every 100 extremely low-income renters.
Out of 100 families statewide with incomes below the poverty line (i.e. less than 30 percent of the median income in their areas), only 26 rental units are affordable and available. Nationally, the rate is 37 homes available for every 100 low-income renters, and no states across the country have an adequate supply of affordable housing for their lowest-income renters.
Currently, over 50 percent of the land in Arizona’s municipalities is zoned for single-family housing, and new research from Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy illustrates how this may contribute to the state’s housing crisis.
“There’s just not enough housing supply across the board,” says Ashlee Tziganuk, a research analyst with the Morrison Institute whose team published the recent study. Her team’s research found that rigid state laws prohibiting mandatory inclusionary zoning holds Arizona back from filling the need for more housing, which according to the state’s Housing Department, needs 270,000 additional homes to alleviate the crisis. Tziganuk suggests more construction of “gentle density” housing, like “duplexes [and] triplexes,” is needed and is generally more favorable than high rises.
The study also found that the lack of inclusionary zoning has led to homeownership becoming rarer among families of color, further marginalizing disadvantaged communities.
“A historical legacy of racism is acting through economic means in the housing market,” says Liza Kurtz, a research analyst with the Morrison Institute, which contributes to “a cascading number of issues that impacts lower income people disproportionately,” people of color especially.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that Black, Latinx, and Native American people are more likely to be renters and more likely to be extremely low income, with Black renters making up 16 percent of Arizona households who are extremely low-income renters, Native American renters at 14 percent, Latinx renters at 12 percent, and Asian renters at 10 percent. Only 5 percent of White households make up Arizona’s extremely low-income renters.
Additionally, where affordable housing is defined as rent and utilities costing 30 percent or less of a renter’s paycheck, a majority of Arizona low-income families spend more than half of their income on housing costs.
While Arizona’s economy is blossoming compared to other states, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has made it clear that “the private market cannot, on its own, provide homes affordable to these renters, because the rents affordable to extremely low-income renters will not cover the development and operating costs of new housing and often do not provide sufficient incentives for landlords to maintain older housing.”
Public funds and municipal construction programs are required now more than ever to counter the ludicrously high rent costs and sheer absence of affordable and available housing in Arizona, lest tens of thousands of families and businesses large and small pay the price.