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Bipartisan solutions proposed to solve AZ housing crisis

Democrat Sean Bowie and Republican Jenn Daniels are working together to find solutions for the housing crisis in Arizona.

ARIZONA, USA — Amid skyrocketing demand for affordable housing in Arizona, a bipartisan duo is teaming up to provide policy solutions to state leaders.

Democrat Sean Bowie and Republican Jenn Daniels collaborated to produce housing policy recommendations. Bowie is an outgoing State Senator and ASU professor. Daniels is a member of the Arizona Commerce Authority Board and a former Gilbert Mayor.

“Let’s develop housing policy that directly relate to our economic development goals,” Daniels said.

Cutting red tape and localizing development decisions

Bowie and Daniels are Housing fellows for Common Sense Institute (CSI) Arizona. Their recommendations are outlined in a CSI report provided to members of a symposium in Phoenix last week. It places an emphasis on streamlining bureaucracy, funding more incentives for development, and shifting greater control into the hands of local governments.

“I think everyone agrees that we do have a housing crisis and Arizona is a great place to live,” Bowie said. “It’s going to require everyone to work together from folks on the local level, to the state level to the developer community.”

According to the report, Arizona needs roughly 100,000 new housing units to meet demand. Barriers to construction at the state level, and red tape within state agencies, are limiting options available to local governments to approve more affordable housing, the report states.

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Daniels said city governments need more flexibility to develop housing policies that promote a mix of housing options for their communities.

“We have some great examples of single-family housing, adjacent to multifamily, adjacent employment opportunities, where it really works,” Daniels said.

Streamline licensing and zoning

Cities that are “shining stars” of this approach include Tempe and Goodyear, Daniels said.

Bowie said next year’s state legislature should consider appealing preemptions that prevent cities and towns from making local decisions.

“Give them tools like inclusionary zoning, tools like special taxing districts for affordable housing, and more autonomy to regulate short-term rentals,” Bowie said.

Asked what proposals legislators should tackle right away, Daniels said the process for developers to obtain water rights should move faster.

“If a development is going in, they have to get an assured water certificate from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), in order to ensure they have water access to build,” Daniels said. “Sometimes those take a very long time to obtain. So from a timing perspective, if speed is part of the conversation, we need to figure out where we shave off time at both the state agency level and at the local level.”

Why some reforms may not be easy

Daniels’ suggestion regarding water licensing reflects the complexity and potential costs involved with some reforms.

The ADWR has up to seven months to process water certificate applications, which are “voluminous and complex,” said Doug MacEachern, Communications Administrator of ADWR in a written statement.

The department completes 7 to 10 applications per month and currently has 125 pending applications.

Staffing levels and state statute impact the rate of processing applications, MacEachern said.

An August investigation by The Arizona Republic concluded that as of this summer, there were nearly 40% fewer people working for the ADWR compared to the peak year in 2009.

However, MacEachern said staffing levels are improving with additional funding from the legislature.

Apartment builder applauds proposals

CSI’s recommendations are needed, said Sarah Shambrook of Dominium, a company that builds and manages affordable apartment complexes.

Residents of Dominium properties typically earn about 60% of the surrounding residents’ income, Shambrook said. Developers want state and local government to speed up the process for getting permission to build.

“It can take nine, ten, eleven months to get something re-zoned,” Shambrook said. “There was a 30-day comment period (proposed) that I really liked. Making sure cities are accountable, and at the same time developers are accountable.”

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