ICYMI - Mesa Mayor John Giles: City and State Leaders Can Tackle Affordable Housing Crisis Together

May 1, 2023 at 3:24 pm

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Arizona Capitol Times: "City and State Leaders Can Tackle Affordable Housing Crisis Together"
[Mesa Mayor John Giles, 4/28/2023]

The cat is out of the bag: Arizona is a great place to live.

Maricopa is the fastest-growing county in the United States. That incredible growth has challenged the pace of development and, despite what's in the pipeline, our region and state are struggling to keep up with demand.

The challenges are deep and pervasive: there are inflation and workforce shortages, exacerbated by the lingering financial strain from the pandemic. These issues are creating added hardships for those with the least wiggle room in their budgets.

Building more affordable housing is essential... but this issue cannot be used as an excuse by the state legislature to take away local control of zoning. Zoning did not cause the affordability crisis, and legislative attempts to eliminate local authority will not fix this problem.

A holistic approach is needed to address this crisis. State leaders need to work with cities to find real-world solutions by providing funding, creating pragmatic policies and increasing tax credits and vouchers.

Mesa has responded to these challenges by proactively keeping people housed and increasing our housing inventory. During the pandemic, our city distributed more than $60 million in emergency rent and utility assistance to help stabilize more than 9,500 households.

The city is actively removing barriers to new developments. Since 2020, more than 5,600 multifamily units have been approved by Council and an additional 4,250 are in planning or under construction.

Several Mesa programs, including Off the Streets and our Community Court program, are helping residents navigate to support systems and stable housing.

Local leaders understand the unique challenges facing their residents, businesses, community groups and developers. This is how Mesa is successfully shoring up housing inventory and disrupting the cycle of homelessness in our community.

There is more than a one-policy-fits-all solution. City planning is a local issue, and Arizona cities should be empowered to employ their best solutions on the local level.

More than 190,000 housing units in Maricopa and Pinal counties are approved by cities and towns but not yet built. To increase housing, developers need to deliver on their approved plans. Increasing the backlog of authorized units by eliminating local zoning authority ignores the significant portion of residents who are already housed but struggling to keep up - or cannot afford new market-rate housing.

Those whose finances remain fixed or strained - single parents, teachers, seniors, service workers and others - remain at risk of falling through the cracks. We cannot let that happen.

In Mesa, nonprofits and faith groups are answering the call to help house, clothe and feed those in need. We are creating new partnerships for Affordable Housing, expanding emergency housing and purchasing a hotel to provide long-term stability for the Off the Streets program.

In recent years, I've been quoted as saying, homelessness is not AN issue, it is THE issue. I encourage our legislators to partner with local community leaders to turn this around before it's too late.