There is a lot of concern about the lack of attainable housing in Scottsdale.
Vital workers – firefighters, police officers, teachers, health care workers – simply can’t afford to live in the city.
Long term, the consequences are not good. High housing prices stifle the ability of young families to live in the city, and that dominoes into all kinds of negative effects from dwindling school attendance (and reduced funding) to a city that could start to lose the vibrancy and diversity that has sustained its outstanding reputation.
Government – City Hall – alone is not the solution. But private businesses when motivated can start making a difference. And a project quietly working its way through the city approval process is a good example.
It’s called The Miller, a multi-family residential project being proposed at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Miller Road.
The builder, Toll Brothers, has incorporated an attainable housing element in its planning. It’s not a huge addition but it’s a step in the right direction. Of its proposed 148-unit complex, Toll Brothers is holding five units open for those who can’t afford the typical rental price.
It works like this. Since standards generally say that housing costs should account for 30% of a families’ income, that’s how rent will be established for those units. Potential renters will share their income statements with Toll, and their rent will be set at 30% of what they make. Toll’s rental rates for the project have not yet been established.
While five units doesn’t solve the problem it does take a step in the right direction. It’s voluntary, doesn’t rely on incentives or taxpayer dollars and is not a city mandate.
The development is to the south of the Camelback Miller Plaza in a parcel of land that includes a vacant restaurant building. The project will bring needed foot traffic to those businesses. And it’s close to the center of downtown Scottsdale where access will be convenient for health care workers, police and firefighters and others who can’t afford to live there at market rates.
Toll Brothers is asking for variances to build up to 76 feet, 10 feet more than current zoning allows. The proposal overall complies with the current Old Town character area plan. The Design Review Board has already given its approval.
Scottsdale has the second highest apartment rental rates in the Valley, with one-bedroom units averaging $1,680. Fountain Hills, at $1,710 is the most expensive, according to a Zumper Phoenix Metro Area Report issued last week.
The need for attainable housing is clear and the City Council has created a task force to study the issue this year.
In the meantime, it’s good to see a creative solution coming from the private sector — the business community. Hopefully The Miller will make its way through the city approval process and encourage other business leaders to look for creative ways to start chipping away at challenges facing Scottsdale.
Editor’s Note: Don Henninger is executive director of SCOTT, Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow. Mr. Henninger also serves on the Independent Newsmedia Inc. board of directors.