ASU Asked Developers How Arizona Can Build More Housing. Here’s What They Said

By Juliette Rihl

Arizona needs more housing — fast. To build it, state and local governments must loosen their zoning laws, generate more political will and expand government funding, developers say.

A newly released report from Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy examines the obstacles that Arizona’s housing developers face and identifies potential solutions. The institute interviewed 15 developers who said zoning, community pushback and financing are the biggest challenges they face in trying to build more homes.

The report is part of a larger body of research by Morrison Institute on Arizona’s affordable housing crisis. The state is short 270,000 housing units, according to the Arizona Department of Housing. A scarcity of affordable housing, paired with Arizona’s booming population growth, has been driving up rental prices and forcing people out of their homes.

“We simply haven’t been building enough,” said Tom Simplot, director of the Arizona Department of Housing. 

The state is currently building between 50,000 and 60,000 new housing units per year, according to the department’s research.

“We’re not going to catch up at the rate we’re going,” Simplot said.

Alison Cook-Davis, Morrison Institute’s research director, said it was important to include developers’ perspectives in the institute’s research. 

“Developers are really important to being able to actually build more housing,” Cook-Davis said. “If the housing isn’t meeting people’s needs, what’s the disconnect? What is the challenge there?”

Many municipalities in Arizona zone about half of their land for single-family homes, according to earlier Morrison Institute research. That means if developers want to build apartments, townhomes or condos, they have to first rezone the land — a process that can take months or even years and opens the proposed project up to community opposition.

The city of Phoenix claims its rezoning process typically takes four to six months, but some developers said it can take up to two years. The process can be “detrimental” to housing projects because it can put them at risk of losing funding or land, according to the report.

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