Some hope Arizona Governor Hobbs doesn’t sign the affordable housing bill

By Bob Christie
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX – Cities and neighborhood groups are making a last-ditch effort to derail a state Legislature bill that would preempt the city government’s ability to regulate the construction of backyard casitas by urging Gov. Katie Hobbs to pass a to veto the bipartisan measure.
City officials from Scottsdale to Casa Grande have sent letters to the Democratic governor imploring her to reject the measure that would allow at least two “accessory dwelling units” on each single-family lot, and three on larger properties.
They say the bill touted as a solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis will instead cause major disruptions, especially because it doesn’t allow them to block the units’ use as short-term rentals. Building and renting out casitas like Airbnb does not provide long-term housing, they argue.
The bill sent to Hobbs last week covers 15 Arizona cities with populations of 75,000 or more.
All but two have already passed rules allowing for the addition of backyard housing and the other two are working on their rules, according to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, which has lobbied heavily against the final bill. This includes Tucson and Phoenix.
League President Douglas Nicholls, mayor of Yuma, wrote a letter to Hobbs urging a veto and listing a series of complaints about the final product, focusing on the inability to ban Airbnb. Without this, Nicholls writes, it fails to guarantee new affordable housing while preempting certain city rules that allow new casitas if they are used for permanent housing.
Two major groups representing homeowners in metro Phoenix are also pushing to veto House Bill 2720, citing the short-term rental problem but also pointing to a lack of parking requirements, provisions that prohibit cities from requiring the additions match the main building, a ban on sprinklers and more.
But affordable housing advocates are making their own positions at Hobbs, including the AARP and the Arizona Housing Coalition. The coalition’s letter states that the bill is a necessary step to diversify housing options and increase availability.
“Signing this bill into law would open the door to an additional tool for developing safe, decent affordable housing options, adding to our state’s housing supply and providing opportunities for generational wealth,” wrote Nicole Newhouse, the coalition’s executive director in her letter to Hobbs. obtained by Capitol Media Services.
Builders and housing advocates who supported the measure say statewide rules are needed to encourage additional home construction and that current city rules fall short. And they said the measure requires at least one unit on a lot to be used as a home for a homeowner in order for a casita to be listed as an Airbnb.
The Scottsdale letter to Hobbs, signed by the mayor, vice mayor and each council member, cites short-term rentals as a major problem in the top tourist destination. They pointed to a 2016 law that bans cities from regulating Airbnb and other short-term rental properties and said there are now 4,000 of those rental properties in their city.
“What were once serene neighborhoods have now become party house enclaves,” Scottsdale’s letter says.
“Long-term residents of our beautiful city are now regularly plagued by noise, waste and inappropriate behavior,” it continues. “This bill will contribute to this catastrophic scene.”
Scottsdale also points to parking and sprinklers, which they require in other developments.
Hobbs has until the middle of this week to sign or veto the casita bill and a second housing bill sent to her last week. They are part of a series of measures passed this year as part of the Legislature’s efforts to address the state’s dire housing shortage.
The shortage is caused by several factors.
But the biggest problem started with the Great Recession and the mortgage crisis that followed. Builders have all but stopped adding new homes for several years, reaching pre-recession levels only in recent years. Meanwhile, the state’s population continued to grow, homes were converted into Airbnbs, and evictions were snapped up by investors and turned into rental properties. The prices of new and existing homes and rental prices rose enormously.
Five major housing bills have now reached Hobbs’ desk this term. She vetoed the most sweeping measure, a bill backed by the Legislature’s Republican leaders called the “Arizona Starter Home Act,” which preempted many city zoning laws and allowed very small lots and houses.
She signed two more, measures that would allow apartment developers to convert old commercial or industrial properties and shorten the time cities have to approve rezoning applications.
The other bill that lawmakers sent Hobbs last week would require cities to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhomes on any single-family lot within a mile of a city’s central business district and on at least 20% of new single-family housing developments . of 10 hectares or more.
That bill won approval from city lobbyists after it was scaled back from covering entire portions of all cities with 75,000 or more residents.
None of the bills would affect areas covered by homeowners’ associations.
Builders have pushed for the changes, arguing that cities are blocking new development, taking too long to approve zoning changes and that water shortages have left some buildings in a pinch. But cities note that there are large numbers of approved housing sites with developers sitting on them.
When Hobbs vetoed the Republican Party’s major bill, she laid out a series of steps she said lawmakers needed to follow to get her support for additional housing bills. She said she supported many, including the casita proposal, on the condition that the final product was the result of a compromise.
The casita bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Carbone, R-Phoenix, said last week that the casita bill was indeed a compromise, although it still did not receive city support because he could not convince backers to pass a ban to allow short-term rentals.
That’s not what the letter from the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix and the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition says.
Leaders of the two groups say the lack of a ban on short-term rentals, which would allow at least two new additions on each lot, and not allowing cities to make additions to match the main houses, show that this does not comply with the ‘compromise’. ‘ Criteria Hobbs said she had to sign housing bills.
“The work of the Legislature in this area has been lacking,” the leaders of the two groups wrote to Hobbs. “We don’t say that to bash elected officials, but the reality is that questions about what the bill’s supporters found wrong with current local laws went unanswered. ”
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