The chairman of the Housing Supply Study Committee is proposing to alter zoning laws and permanently fund the Housing Trust Fund to create more affordable housing in the state.
Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, made those recommendations and others in the committee’s final meeting Dec. 20.
Kaiser concluded that Arizona lacks housing data, zoning is a primary barrier to affordable housing, the building process should be sped up and there is too much NIMBYism blocking development.
Committee members sent recommendations to Kaiser, which he considered and approved certain ones.
The most ambitious recommendation and the one Kaiser has spoken about the most is altering zoning rules. Kaiser recommends reducing redundancies in the general plan and zoning codes, reducing the need for rezoning, expediting zoning applications, reconsidering whether city councils need to hear every rezoning request, establishing a rural community infrastructure grant plan and allowing developers to go through an appeals process if the city council rejects their proposal. Kaiser said he’s not sure who the developer would appeal to.
Last session, Kaiser sponsored a bill that would have made some of these changes, but it was transformed into the bill that created the Housing Supply Study Committee instead.
Following zoning changes, Kaiser recommended making it easier to build properties that are larger than single family homes but smaller than huge multifamily developments, such as duplexes and quadruplexes.
As he has suggested several times, Kaiser said he supports allowing people to build small affordable units (like mother-in-law suites and living spaces in remodeled garages). He also recommends limiting “discretionary review of design standards” to allow more housing options and styles, including manufactured homes.
Kaiser also recommended creating a housing data clearinghouse and charge the Arizona Department of Housing and the Arizona Commerce Authority with creating a housing needs assessment. Next, Kaiser wants to reconvene the State Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness.
Keeping the senior population in mind, Kaiser called for allowing more small homes to be built, waiving parking space restrictions, funding senior homeless shelters and permanently funding the Housing Trust Fund.
Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, has been trying to pass a law to establish permanent housing trust fund monies for years, but she hasn’t been able to get enough support from Republicans.
Last year, Alston and some allies got more money put into the Housing Trust Fund, but not the amount she hoped for, and that Kaiser seems to be suggesting again. The two Democrats on the Housing Committee are Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, and Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, but neither of them is returning to the Legislature next session. Quezada said Alston might be interested in supporting some of Kaiser’s plans and she responded positively to his Housing Trust Fund proposal on Dec. 20.
Going forward, Kaiser said he’s already working on housing legislation and will continue the stakeholder outreach process.
Some of the other committee members’ suggestions that Kaiser did not support include changes to the landlord-tenant agreement to further protect renters and letting school districts build teacher housing on their land.
Another issue that Kaiser didn’t mention is tackling the source of income-based discrimination. The Legislature recently passed a law that allows landlords to discriminate based on the source of income which Tucson and some of the housing supply committee members don’t agree with.
Several of Kaiser’s recommendations do align with Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs’s extensive housing plan and he expects to see bipartisan support for some proposals from her as well as other Democrat legislators.
Senate President-elect Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, issued an economic plan recently that also incorporates some elements of Kaiser and Hobbs’ ideas. Petersen and Kaiser have been communicating on the topic.
The committee met 12 times since the Legislature adjourned, heard from more than 70 presenters, and traveled across the state to learn about housing needs.
About 300 people move to Arizona every day, but the housing supply is down an estimated 270,000 homes according to the Department of Housing.
Last session, bills that aimed to address the housing supply had little success but going into this upcoming session there is interest from lawmakers in both parties and chambers.