PHOENIX - A Phoenix lawmaker is attempting to salvage at least part of his controversial plan to override local zoning rules in the name of affordable housing, a proposal one Scottsdale legislator said would have “kneecapped” municipal governments.
The move comes after a bipartisan vote in the Senate to kill a plan by Sen. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, to require cities to allow everything from higher-density housing and taller multi-family complexes to eliminating requirements for off-street parking.
City lobbyists said these were decisions best left to locally elected city councils.
Also helping to doom the measure was the lack of any guarantee that the revamp of state laws that give cities the right to control zoning would lead to more affordable homes or apartments.
Kaiser said in an interview that some of the wide-ranging measure’s provisions are clearly dead, including one that said builders had the absolute right to convert existing commercial, mixed-use or multi-family property to taller and larger apartment units and another that would allow developers to place as many as six homes onto one lot.
“Obviously by-right was not helpful, so that's that won't be coming back,” Kaiser told Capitol Media Services. “And the small lots, people don't like that.”
Other parts of the measure, he said, will be revived.
The opposition to Kaiser’s plan was bipartisan, with Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, joining the critics.
The Republican whose district includes Scottsdale called local zoning “a sacred thing” and noted that people made decisions on where to make the biggest investment of their lives based on things like big lots - and the assurance that a developer can’t buy a vacant nearby property and cram it with six small homes.
“Trust me friends, I am no stranger to pre-empting cities and towns,” Kavanagh said.
“But I do draw a line at kneecapping,” he said during the recent vote on SB 1117, which failed 20-9.
“And this bill kneecaps local control. And local control is basically what our constituents want.”
Kaiser said his new proposal would include requiring cities to allow backyard casitas known as auxiliary housing units as long as they are not used as short-term rentals, allowing construction of duplexes and tri-plexes, and allowing manufactured housing to be used.
And limiting design reviews and allowing boarding houses also will likely be revived, he said.
Kaiser said the proposals probably have enough support to make it through the Legislature.
The original plan was supported by developers and some housing advocates and won the backing of some Democrats in the Senate.
“I think there are necessary tools in this bill that need to be implemented in order to really address the housing crisis that we are facing,” said Sen. Anna Hernandez, D-Phoenix.
“And I think it will give us opportunities to build more diverse housing, more innovative and tailored to what some of our working families need or what some of our youth needs or some of our seniors.”
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