At 65 and an Arizona native, Deborah Ulloa has seen it all trying to find affordable housing.
Renting a two-bedroom condo near 63rd and Maryland avenues in one of her previous homes she recalled “The tenants were out of control. I thought I was gonna have to wear a body-cam.” Forced to move again, her next stop was a one-bedroom unit for her and her teenage son that featured no washer and dryer and “drug addicts” literally too close to home.
In a Valley market where buying and rental rates continue to soar upward and leave many behind, even having unsafe housing is a step above what’s worse.
“I have seen homelessness even in my own family,” Ulloa said.
Things are different for her now. And for her son. And her peace of mind.
And her wallet.
Ulloa is one of 72 residents at Bethany Crossing, an affordable housing community at the corner of 69th Avenue and Bethany Home Road in Glendale that is the product of agencies coming together, from nonprofits to municipal government to local businesses. The community comprised of one- and two-bedroom units celebrated its official ribbon cutting on Nov. 4, although some residents, like Ulloa, got in earlier over the summer.
Ulloa has had a long road to get there. She survived a near-death experience in 2011, got out of a troubled marriage a year later, and along the way adopted her great-nephew from CPS when he was a baby, taking him in when she was 48.
In between, while living on disability and social security, she spent countless hours seeking affordable and safe housing for her and her son Jonathan, who is now 17.
“Us that live on low income, we have to try to make ends meet,” she said, beaming inside her brand-new unit for which she was grateful enough to note that even the bathrooms hadn’t been used before. “When something like this is built, you can relax and focus and don’t have to worry about trying to make ends meet because this is home.”
Like other cities, Glendale is experiencing soaring rates to both buy and rent homes in a trend that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
Industry tracker Altos Research this week reports a median home listing price for Glendale of $447,500, with an inventory of 203 homes. Rent is also becoming harder for many residents, with Glendale showing a median rent cost of $2,195.
“Home sales continue to outstrip supply,” Altos noted of Glendale on Thursday. “This is a seller’s market so watch for upward pricing pressure in the near future if the trend continues.”
Real estate brokerage Redfin in September noted that Glendale home prices were up 30% compared to last year, and that the average sale price per square foot in the city — $228 — is up 32% since one year ago.
With the rising costs leaving many behind, there’s a flip side to the trend. In a 2020 report, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) — using its Point-in-Time Homeless Count, which is an annual street and shelter report to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness during a given point in time — found that Glendale, with 170 unsheltered people, far and away leads the West Valley in the number of homeless residents.
In between are low-income residents scrambling to find affordable housing and in a safe environment for families, and that’s where United Methodist Outreach Ministries (UMOM) makes a difference.
For more than 50 years UMOM New Day Centers, a Phoenix-based 501(c)3, works with a focus on relief for transients and impoverished neighborhoods through rapid rehousing and affordable housing. The 72 units at Bethany Crossing brings the total amount of units UMOM has constructed with Valley partners to 550, with another community planned near 9th Street and Broadway in Phoenix next year and still another planned for 2023.
Bethany Crossing is UMOM’s first community in Glendale, and units come with granite counter tops and an in-unit washer and dryer, among other amenities.
“Rents keep skyrocketing where lower income earners find it almost impossible to find affordable housing,” UMOM CEO Jackson Fonder said at Thursday’s ribbon cutting in Glendale.
The federal government defines housing as “affordable” when it consumes 30% or less of a family’s monthly income. Fonder notes that a 2021 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a head of household must earn $22.30/hour to afford a two-bedroom rental home, and at Arizona’s minimum wage they would need to work 73 hours a week to afford the same unit in the greater Phoenix area.
Making matters worse is the fact that for every 100 extremely low-income households in Arizona, only 26 affordable rental housing units are available. Bethany Crossing alone attracted hundreds of applicants for the 72 available units.
“We know that a primary way to solve homelessness is to ensure that there is low-cost housing for families who need it,” Fonder said. “And we’re doing everything we can to make this happen.”
Ulloa watched the new community build from the ground up since last year, and when she heard it was low-income based and close to her current home, she jumped at the chance to qualify. She did, and as a result pays $619 a month for a brand-new two-bedroom unit in a safe, quiet community.
“Here I am living with my son, happy. It’s beautiful,” she said. “They went above and beyond. All 72 of us are blessed. And there needs to be more families that are blessed.”