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Affordable housing still among big needs in Surprise

City using federal grant money to help rehabilitate homes, increase inventory

Posted 6/1/20

Surprise, just like the Valley and state as a whole, has a shortage of affordable housing.

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Affordable housing still among big needs in Surprise

City using federal grant money to help rehabilitate homes, increase inventory


When city of Surprise officials last month put together its plan for funding to help it rehabilitate older homes and find more affordable options for some residents, it only confirmed what it already knew.

The city, just like the Valley and state as a whole, has a shortage of affordable housing.

The City Council on May 19 approved submitting a plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development that shows how the city wants to spend federal dollars that go to just the thing Surprise needs.

Adam Lane, a neighborhood services supervisor with the Surprise Human Services and Community Vitality Department, detailed the need to the Council that showed the following things:

  • Nearly half of Surprise renters (46%) are considered “housing cost-burdened,” which means the household spends more than 30% of its income on housing expenses.
  • About one-quarter of those cost-burdened homeowners are 65 and over.
  • 83% of very low income renters in Surprise are “housing cost-burdened.”

Surprise is only 11th in the Valley for affordable housing, better than only Queen Creek and Buckeye.

Part of the problem is only less than 1% of existing units in Surprise are multi-family, which is considered anything other than a single-family detached unit.

Those would include duplexes, apartments and dorms.

“We are nowhere where we need to be,” District 5 Councilman David Sanders said.

And it’s not going to get better soon.

“This 1% is going to get smaller because we are building more single-family detached homes, so we’re going to be even more out of whack here,” Mr. Sanders said. “I see the need and the need is going to get bigger.”

Arizona as a whole is short of multi-family housing.

“We just don’t have enough rental properties,” Mayor Skip Hall said. “So you’ve got a whole supply and demand issue also.”

Of Surprise’s housing inventory, the city discovered more than 90% of homes were built before 2010. That’s key because houses older than 10 years require bigger upgrades and possible major replacements to features such as air conditioner units.

“What that says is we have an aging housing stock,” Mr. Lane said.

The lack of affordable housing in Surprise and Arizona comes at a time when rents continue to rise at an alarming rate in the Phoenix metro area. 

According to CoreLogic’s Single-Family Rental Index (SFRI) that was published in January, Phoenix-Mesa had the highest year- over-year increase in single-family rents in November at 6.9% (compared to November 2018) for the 12th consecutive month.

Things got a tad better in Surprise in April when the Heritage at Surprise projected opened in the Original Town Site, bringing 100 affordable units to those residents.

We spent $500,000 of [grant money] on leveraging $20 million on that project,” Mr Lane said. “I want to do that again. We need to find more partners.”

With the Community Development Block Grant money, the city is hoping to rehabilitate 125 houses for low- and moderate-income residents.

It’s also hoping to assist 130 people with its new tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA) program that it’s launching this year.

With that program funds will be used to provide direct assistance to low-income households who need help paying their rent. TBRA will make up the difference between what a renter can afford to pay and the actual rent for a home. 

The city also has the goal of creating 10 new affordable rental units.

The city receives an annual allocation of CDBG money directly from HUD.

The allocation for program year 2020 is $649,903. That allotment changes each year, but it would roughly amount to a little less than $3.25 million over five years.

HOME funds are also allocated to the city each year as a member of the Maricopa HOME Consortium.

The city is allowed to choose how to use the funds, but in exchange recipients must prepare four things — among them a Five-Year Consolidated Plan through June 30, 2025, to help determine the biggest needs.

[HUD also requires an Annual Action Plan (AAP) for each of the five years, and the city to file what’s called an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) and a Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER).]

To do the five-year plan, the city first had to conduct a Needs Assessment and a Market Assessment.

Those were especially focused on the homeless population, individuals with disabilities and special needs, low- to moderate-income households, seniors, survivors of violence (domestic, sexual and hate crimes), and veterans.

The Consolidated Plan helps plan how funds will be allocated to address the needs and priorities over five years and help set goals and projected outcomes over that time.

It also helps give an overview of the Surprise housing market. It measured supply vs. demand, the condition and cost of the housing as well at the types — such as single-family, multi-family and attached.

Surprise even got a measure of non-housing needs, such as economic development, the local labor force, education and business activity.

The five-year plan the Council approved also factored in the needs the city found in last year’s comprehensive assessment called “Human Services and Community Vitality in Surprise — A Community That Cares.”

“A ton of work went into this and we’re really proud of the outcome,” Mr. Lane said.

Public participation was crucial during last year’s Community Needs Assessment, including an outreach session in the Original Town Site in September. The OTS is considered a geographic priority area.

“It just jumped out at us that there are a group of people that absolutely can be helped by CDBG,” Mr. Lane said.

Among the concerns of the residents there, environmental hazards in homes was among them. There were also questions about making programs more available and increasing the awareness of their availability, especially for households with a language barrier.

The city identified four high priority needs in the plan, starting with maintaining and increasing the availability of affordable housing. It also is targeting investments in public facility improvements, support for public services and the continuation of planning and administration of HUD-funded programs.

For the second identified need, public facility improvements, the city has emphasized investing in new park facilities, especially in low-income areas.

The Surprise Parks and Recreation Master Plan 2015-2022 helped guide the city through evaluating future needs for parks and recreation.

The city is looking for a location for a new 25-acre multi-generational recreation center and fieldhouse facility. The 30,000- to 50,000-square-foot center would provide a fitness center, an indoor track and basketball courts.

City officials would like the fieldhouse to be a 124,000-square-foot enclosure that would accommodate up to 12 indoor basketball courts.

A new city library in a new city park with possible new library branches in future community parks are also on the wishlist. The existing Surprise Regional Library could also one day undergo an expansion if possible.

As for pools, the city has long needed a new aquatic center. The Surprise community pool in the city center often reaches capacity for open swim during the summer.

The master plan for Surprise Farms Park, a new aquatics facility, includes a bathhouse, a recreation swimming pool, a play pool with water slides and a splash pad.

Other goals include investing in community facilities for seniors, people with disabilities and children.

“A lot of people are looking for stuff for their kids to do,” Mr. Lane said.

There is also more repair or replacement work needed for damaged or inaccessible sidewalks.

“We want to make sure that the entire community is accessible to everybody,” Mr. Lane said.

Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at jstone@newszap.com.