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Hobbs vetoes bipartisan ‘Starter Homes Act’

Posted 3/18/24

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed the “Starter Homes Act” Monday, saying the provisions in the bipartisan bill would create problems without any assurance it actually would make housing more affordable.

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Hobbs vetoes bipartisan ‘Starter Homes Act’


PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed the “Starter Homes Act” Monday, saying the provisions in the bipartisan bill would create problems without any assurance it actually would make housing more affordable.

In her veto letter, the governor said that opposition to the measure to override various city planning and zoning regulations came not just from the elected leaders of the affected communities. Hobbs said she also heard from everyone from firefighters who were concerned about higher density and allowing homes to be so close to each other — just 5 feet from the side property lines — to fears from the Department of Defense that it would permit high-density housing near military bases.

Other provisions would allow homes on lots of just 1,500 square feet.

“Unfortunately, this expansive bill is a step too far and I know we can strike a better balance,” the governor said. And Hobbs said she believes there are better plans that actually could make a significant difference in housing availability and affordability.

“I am supportive of ongoing efforts in the legislature to reach a more balanced solution on other reforms that are still moving through the process,” the governor said.

One of those is legislation that would require cities of more than 150,000 to allow residential or mixed-use development on a portion of lands currently zoned for commercial, office, retail or parking use.

Another would require cities to permit homeowners to construct “accessory dwelling units” on their properties that presumably could provide housing not only for relatives but also serve as rental units.

That idea is not new, with places like Tucson and Phoenix already allowing “casitas.” The fight could come over how many of these units would be allowed on any given property.

And the governor said she is open to discussing what she called “missing middle housing options” that would allow duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and fiveplexes on land zoned for residential zoning, as well as townhomes.

This measure, she said, is not a solution.

“This is unprecedented legislation that would put Arizonans at the center of a housing reform experiment with unclear outcomes,” she said.

Hobbs also said she is willing to support measures that would ease the regulatory burden on developers, shortening the amount of time between a proposal and final city approval that would allow construction to start.

“I ask that interested stakeholders engage productively in those conversations,” she said.

The point about military bases is particularly critical as one of the issues that can determine whether a base is closed is residential encroachment. That is particularly true around Air Force bases where it could result in not just danger if a jet went down nearby but also noise complaints from the new neighbors.

The threat is real. Arizona was hit in the early 1990 with the closure of Williams Air Force Base in the East Valley section of Maricopa County.

Even under existing laws there has been a threat to Luke Air Force Base west of Glendale where homes continue to pop us even as the facility has managed to not only avoid being shuttered but was selected as a training base for the F-35 aircraft.

And there have been similar fears that construction around Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson could put that facility in jeopardy, although the Air Force formally chose D-M last year to host a new Special Operations Command Wing.

Monday’s action is a victory for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns which got mayors from around the state to mount a full-court press to protect their ability to make decisions.

They argued these are matters best left to those closest to the people. And several mayors said that the legislation was little more than an effort by developers to use the current rise in home prices to get out from under city regulations they did not like.

The veto leaves supporters without a remedy: Despite its bipartisan support — including half the legislative Democrats — there are insufficient votes for an override as a number of Republicans were opposed.

In a prepared statement, Rep. Analise Ortiz, one of the proponents, said she was “deeply saddened and disappointed” in the governor’s decision.

“HB 2570 was a historic bipartisan solution to our state’s housing critis and it would have created a pathway to the American dream of home ownership that too many Arizonans find themselves locked out of,” said the Phoenix Democrat.

“I am equally frustrated that while other states are proactively addressing housing in an urgent and deliberate manner, Arizona continues to kick the can down the road.”