City Council grapples with housing hopelessness - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

City Council grapples with housing hopelessness

April 24th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
City Council grapples with housing hopelessness

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Anyone shopping for a home in Chandler knows prices are up. So do city leaders.

They met last week to discuss what they could do about it, and the takeaway is that there are steps they are already taking, more they can do – but in the end it won’t matter much.

The factors driving up home prices in Chandler are too strong to change the tide.

Council met April 18 in a work session to look at what is being done and what more could be done to make homes in Chandler more affordable.

Here are the steps Council was told they could take that would help a little.

Rezone some areas of South Chandler to allow for denser populations. Many are currently zoned for no more than 18 units per acre, and with the city running out of empty lots, space is at a premium. More available homes would, in theory, lower demand and relieve some of the upward pressure on prices.

Reduce the setback requirements for new developments. Most new developments must be set back at least 50 feet from roads. By lessening that number to, say, 25 feet, there would be more space available on lots for more homes.

Working with developers on any new projects to ensure a certain percentage of the homes they are building will be affordable. Planning Administrator Kevin Mayo said if they ask early in the process, most developers are willing to commit to some affordable units.

“We’re kind of a victim of our own success,” said Councilmember Rene Lopez. “Everybody wants to be in Chandler.”

Mayo told Council that it would take a while before those changes would make any kind of an impact in the housing market. That put a focus on the steps the city is already doing.

They’ve built about 2,700 single family units and 4,300 multi-family units since January of 2018.

They’ve partnered with Newtown Community Land Trusts for 69 affordable homes. There are two in the process of being added. However, only eight have been added since 2018 because the huge increase in prices makes it harder for Newtown to purchase homes to turn into affordable housing. Newtown buys existing properties, repairs them, and then sells them to moderate-to-low income buyers.

Habitat for Humanity has built 15 homes in the city.

Chandler has 447 low income housing tax credit units.

It has 14 affordable rental units available, with two more on the way. However, the high prices of rents available has slowed adding more units. There have only been three of these units added since 2018.

Chandler currently has a couple of options for public housing. It has more than 300 units available for families, seniors and single families. The wait list to get one of these is long. The city opened it up at the end of last year0 and cut off accepting applications when they reached 2,000.

The city also offers a program where residents can rent apartments, but that requires buy-in from landlords. The tenant pays 30% of their monthly income, then the federal government pays a big chunk to keep that family in their home.

However, Amy Jacobson, Chandler’s housing and redevelopment director, says landlords can get more for their units than the combined 30% from the tenant and the grant from Housing and Urban Development. So landlords are opting out.

The city is planning a landlord outreach event later this month to try to encourage more to participate in the program.

Jacobson said the city is trying to build 158 more public housing units and currently working on a proposal to submit to Housing and Urban Development. She said they hope to present a development agreement to the Council for its approval in the coming months.

She said they also want to look at their existing public housing buildings to see if they can be upgraded and if it might be possible to add more units.

There is no mystery why home prices are climbing as this is a classic supply and demand case.

Chandler is running out of empty lots to build on. The city has less than 10% of vacant land, and most of that is set aside for businesses that provide jobs.

There is a shortage in available high-end homes for the wealthy. Because there is not enough of these to meet demand, some who can afford more are buying homes in the next highest category. That has a cascading effect, with more and more people buying homes in a lower category than they can afford because there are none available.

Before the pandemic, on a typical day there were about 24,000 homes for sale in the Valley. Now, that number is about 5,000.

In addition to people looking to buy homes, there has been an increase in the number of investors looking to purchase property. So, demand has increased as supply has fallen to about 20 percent of what it was only a few years ago.

“As we studied this issue over the last year or so, we definitely learned that addressing housing is a complex issue,” said City Manager Joshua Wright. “And one that doesn’t fall on city shoulders alone. There are many market factors outside of our control effecting housing right now. While it is easy to paint this as a city issue, the reality is certainly more complicated.”