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Guest Commentary

Kaiser: Fictions do disservice to housing supply bill in Legislature


As the sponsor of Senate Bill 1117, I know with great certainty what’s in the measure, which seeks important changes in state law targeted at solving our housing supply crisis.

As a state senator, I’m more than happy to debate the measure on its merits. But debating a fictional version of the bill? That I cannot do, which is why I’m writing in response to Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace’s Feb. 8 critique of SB 1117, headlined “Pace: Proposed bill could eliminate town’s 1 home per acre zoning.”

SB 1117 would do no such thing — a fact Pace, an attorney, would surely know if she had read the bill before calling on residents to “Start writing and calling all legislators today.” To be clear, Paradise Valley is exempted from the measure, as is every Arizona city with a population of less than 25,000 residents.

Other points of disinformation include the fact that SB 1117 does not “eliminate single family zoning,” as Pace claims. Nor does the bill “allow use of public right of ways,” “increase short-term rentals everywhere,” or eliminate the “public engagement process completely.” These would all be great scare tactics — if they were in fact true.

Pace also falsely claims that under certain circumstances SB 1117 “permits up to 75 foot tall complexes built adjacent to bus stops and major streets.” That snippet, included in last year’s version of the bill, is nowhere to be found in this year’s version. Again, I urge Pace — and everyone who wants to solve the state’s housing supply crisis — to read the proposal, which can be found on the Legislature’s website here.

At its heart, SB 1117 would make it possible to accomplish the necessity laid out by the Arizona Department of Housing: We must build 270,000 new homes to repair the massive shortfall currently being experienced in our housing market. Building our way out of this crisis is the fastest, most effective way to solve a myriad of issues, including bringing down unaffordable rents and giving working Arizonans the ability to buy a home and live out the American Dream.

Along with my fellow legislators, I spent dozens of hours last year serving on the Housing Supply Study Committee. We traveled the state and took testimony from stakeholders including builders, advocates for the unhoused, professional planners, economists, researchers and residents.

Time and time again, we heard that cities and towns stand as the single biggest impediment to building new homes — along with pockets of neighbors who bully elected officials by loudly proclaiming “not in my backyard” to every new construction project, no matter how builders work to assuage their concerns.

What will SB 1117 actually do? For cities with populations of more than 25,000, it would get us back to building starter homes on small lots that have been regulated out of existence in Arizona. We desperately need a variety of housing types so our first responders, nurses, teachers and those just starting out in the workplace can find a home and participate in the American Dream.

Outdated requirements for off-street parking would be eliminated. And certain building heights could increase only near light rail lines — again something Paradise Valley doesn’t need to worry about.

Importantly, SB 1117 also would eliminate the need for builders to go through costly processes like municipal design review panels, which in true Goldilocks style make endless demands for aesthetic changes to new homes. The proposal also would create new opportunities for affordable housing, including allowing homeowners to build a guest house for mom or dad and residences where residents could rent a room while sharing communal kitchens and bathrooms.

Pace ends her piece with a sobering proclamation: “This,” she writes, “is not the answer for Arizona.” She appears to like the status quo, a system that has created a housing supply crisis that impacts tens of thousands of families on a daily basis. The status quo won’t work for the rest of us, however. We need real solutions for a crisis that exists not in fiction, but in reality.

SB 1117, which has drawn support from Republicans and Democrats both, would help solve that crisis. That’s why I will continue to fight for it, and for the truth. I hope you’ll join me.

We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.