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'It’s becoming out of reach': Phoenix-area housing rentals becoming too costly for tenants

People who need a place to rent are stuck with few or no options and some are even getting pushed out of their existing rentals.

PHOENIX — The cost of renting an apartment or home in the Phoenix area continues to go up, and it's a consequence of the booming real estate market.

People who need a place to rent are stuck with few or no options and some are even getting pushed out of their existing rentals.

“I’ve been looking for a whole year”

Lisa Cowen and her husband began renting a north Phoenix house in 2015 at $1,200 a month. When Lisa’s landlord notified her last year she was going to need to find a new place to live in August 2021, she immediately began looking.

“I’ve been looking for the whole year and have not had any luck,” Lisa said. “A lot of landlords and realty companies are taking 15 to 20 applicants and they’re looking for the person with the highest credit score and the most money.” 

Complicating matters for Lisa is that her husband’s recovering from a brain injury and needs accommodations in a house with space. She has about 20 days to find the right house close enough to central Phoenix where her husband receives medical treatment.

“So hopefully we’re not going to be homeless,” Lisa said.

Arizona Rental Prices Soaring

How costly is the rental market?  According to rentcafe.com, the average rent for an 802 square foot apartment in Phoenix is now $1,252, up 10% from one year ago. 

Data from RealPage also suggests Phoenix recently saw the highest monthly rent growth in the nation.

“It’s becoming out of reach for low-income renters, even moderate-income renters,” said Joanna Carr, research and policy director at the Arizona Housing Coalition

Pandemic made rental market worse

According to Carr, an already tough rental market was made worse by the pandemic, despite rental assistance unleashed by the federal government.

“We have enough funds coming into the state for rental assistance, but the administrators of these funds have been so overwhelmed they haven’t been able to get those funds out and it’s not their fault,” Carr said.

At the end of the month, the state’s eviction moratorium will be lifted. Affording housing advocates are bracing themselves for a wave of evicted tenants.

Possible solutions on the horizon

There has been an increase in the number of housing vouchers available for low-income renters. However, there aren’t enough landlords available to accept the vouchers because the market is so competitive, Carr said.

“We need a combination of an increase in vouchers with landlord incentives,” Carr said.

The state Legislature also just approved spending $160 million for affordable housing across the state, Carr said. The approval of funds was considered a victory in a state that historically does not create affordable housing policies.

“The other part of good news is Arizona has received a significant amount of stimulus funding from the federal government that can be used for housing and homelessness,” Carr said.

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