Arizona lawmakers approved one of the largest budget increases for housing and homelessness in nearly a decade, allocating a one-time investment of $15 million for the Housing Trust Fund in the state’s 2020 budget. At its peak in 2007, the Fund received $40 million and provided housing relief for more than 12,000 households.
While we have a long way to go before restoring aid for housing to what it was, this year's budget is a good sign that Gov. Ducey and the state legislature are beginning to see that ending homelessness and increasing access to affordable housing are a primary concern for Arizona residents.
The Arizona Department of Housing will hold its first public meeting regarding the Housing Trust Fund this Friday, June 21st. As housing advocates, your knowledge surrounding issues of housing stability are of utmost importance. Make sure you participate in these public hearings and let ADOH know where these funds are needed most.
The first proposal, released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this month, would prohibit mixed-status families from living in public or Section 8 housing programs. Yet existing law currently stands that households with at least one U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant are permitted to live in subsidized housing, but the assistance allotment is decreased to account for household members who are ineligible for aid. The newly-proposed law would cut off aid from these households completely, denying housing assistance to immigrants and U.S. citizens who are otherwise eligible for subsidies.
If this rule goes into effect, HUD estimates that 55,000 children and their families throughout the country will be at risk of losing housing assistance and potentially face eviction.
In addition to displacing families, the policy change, if enacted, would increase wait lists since displacing mixed-status families with new households with all eligible members would cost HUD $200 million new dollars, a cost not likely borne by an administration that has repeatedly proposed federal housing program cuts.
The second proposal would reduce protections under the Equal Access Rule for LGBTQ youth and adults seeking emergency shelter services from HUD-funded programs. HUD’s proposed change would allow homelessness service providers that receive federal funding to take “privacy, safety, practical concerns, and religious beliefs” into consideration when determining who they will provide services for, and how those services will be provided.
This rule is expected to disproportionately effect transgender persons, and will create further barriers between the one in five transgender persons will experience homelessness in their lifetime and the basic right of shelter.
By providing millions of dollars in additional funding to address our growing housing crisis, Gov. Doug Ducey and members of the Arizona Legislature have made it clear that investing in affordable housing resources is what our state needs. The enactment of HUD’s proposed rules would divert these funds away from what our locally-elected leaders have allocated them for and put additional stress on working families and individuals seeking life-saving shelter and support services.
I started 2019 with goals, one being my intention to enter the homebuyer’s market for the sake of my financial future following the set back of a divorce. Earlier in the year, taking those first steps to explore if home ownership was even an option, I had made my appointment with Trellis.
At my first appointment with Trellis, my counsellor explained the process and made a plan with me based on my credit report and budget. My goal for the next few months is to save, save, save and to review my situation later in the year. My counsellor explained that even if there is immediate assistance available for a down payment, Trellis wouldn’t encourage a home purchase without an emergency fund. This aligned with my trepidations about home buying, wanting to make sure I had some money aside to cover the unexpected costs of owning a property. Buying a home is not something to rush into and I have realized this even more so as I explore the homebuyers market.
I also attended the Greater Phoenix Homebuyer event back in March. The event, organized collaboratively by Trellis and the Arizona Housing Coalition, was a free learning session that aimed to educate interested home buyers on the options available to purchase a home. It was incredible to see the various sources of assistance and mortgage products available. I learned about down payment assistance programs available to households based on location and income, as well as ways people can layer assistance to maximize the help available.
One major concern for me was the cost of an additional mortgage protection payment should I chose to use down payment assistance. However, I learned that with the combination of good credit and home buyer education certifications, many lenders are willing to waive the protection insurance. Speaking to lenders at the event, I was given information about zero down mortgages should I wish to purchase without down payment assistance.
I also learned that lenders work closely with housing counseling agencies such as Trellis and the down payment assistance programs to make the whole process simple for the buyer. I came away from the event feeling positive about the support and help available.
So long as I keep working on maintaining and improving my credit score and saving, I should be in a good position to buy a home in the near future. However, applying the available support and assistance to the current housing market and my long term goals is turning out to be a little more complicated.
Essentially, the last few months of home sharing has given me the experience of low housing costs and the ability to save, which has added a new dimension to my future housing plans.
I had initially planned to use this year of room sharing to recover financially and get back on my feet before I delve into home ownership and sole occupancy. However, the financial benefits of sharing housing costs are allowing me to more comfortably meet my needs and contribute to a savings funds. This is greatly relieving compared to when I was rent burdened with a one bedroom apartment last year and struggling to get by.
This has got me thinking a lot lately about the changing landscape of housing and the choices people are making to lessen the impact of high housing costs. Home sharing comes with a cost of losing personal space, however the relief of not being burdened with high rent feels worth it.
It seems that in response to the reality many people face in affording a safe, affordable home without feeling the pinch, people are turning to housing choices that may seem unconventional.
I have friends who spend the good weather months of the year sleeping in their vans, paying a small fee to park in their friend’s driveways and use their amenities. I know people who own their homes yet rent out all of their spare rooms to cover their mortgage; allowing them to save for the future or finance more investment.
To some, these choices may seem crazy, however to others it makes sense to avoid the stress of being burdened by housing costs. I’ve also learnt that unconventional housing choice is not limited to the millennial generation, with a rise in baby boomers also choosing shared living for a fear of not having saved enough for retirement.
Personally, I can manage with the loss of my personal space for the benefit of saving money. Having to share my plates and silverware is worth it to help me fear the future less. However, paying rent to fund my landlord’s retirement isn’t ultimately my goal. If I myself can retire sitting on a property of 100% equity, I will feel satisfied and secure.
The conundrum I now face is how to I get to that 100% equity without losing my new found ability to save money through sharing housing costs. Here comes my solution; I buy a family sized home, commutable to my work and rent out my spare rooms to friends seeking an affordable housing solution. That way I am investing in property, saving money, reducing my travel costs and helping to provide affordable housing options.
After dreaming about this perfect long-term solution for myself, I proceeded to check out the current real-estate market to scope out the availability of family sized homes. And this is where I found my biggest challenge. My commutable location is Central Phoenix. The house prices in Central Phoenix have doubled since the crash, which is great for those who purchased during that time, but not so great for first time buyers wanting to reside in that area.
An overcorrecting of the housing market since the recession is causing a second-round of barriers for millennials accessing the home buying market, and it looks like I may be getting caught up in all of that. My obtainable mortgage amount is affected by the fact that my household has a sole income and I have student loan debt that is impacting my loan-debt ratio.
I simply cannot afford to purchase a family home in my commutable area and so my perfect solution will need a little innovative thinking and flexibility. Alternatively, I may have to accept some give and take and let part of my ‘perfect’ solution go.
For the time being, I am going to continue to save money, watch the housing market, obsessively work on my credit and positively consider all of my viable home buying and investment options. After all, I do love a challenge and I’m also not afraid of the unconventional.
The thought of buying a home is daunting and completely overwhelming. It is something that we are often told creates the best investment and is a necessary step in our efforts to improve our financial futures.
Oftentimes home ownership seems completely out of reach and the idea of the responsibility that comes with it is scary. I already did the whole “financially responsible” thing back in my late twenties when I lived in the UK. I bought my first home aged 27 with my ex-husband through the generous help of my in-laws. I guess I was lucky. I had a decent job, a retirement fund and was working on building a sound financial foundation with my then-spouse.
The home we bought at the end of the housing crash in 2013 created a good profit for us when we sold it three years later following our decision to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona.
The equity funded our relocation in January 2017 and, if everything had gone as planned, we would have had enough money left for a healthy down payment on a new home here. My financial security was destroyed when my marriage ended, and soon enough I was facing a whole new reality.
Dealing with the chaos of divorce led me to make some questionable life choices, namely signing a 13-month lease on a one bedroom apartment with a rent of $1300 a month. I hadn’t quite got my head around the reality of a single-person income working as a case manager in the non-profit sector didn’t provide me with the healthiest of income sources.
I was spending over half of my income on rent and racking up student loan debt to pay my bills and expenses. My previously sensible money management skills went out of the window for a short while. My share of the equity from the home we had owned in the UK was soon gone.
It wasn't until the day I checked my bank balance to see my total worth of $0.43 that I got the reality check I needed. I tried to come out of my lease, but would have been charged $2500 to do so. It didn’t make sense. So I sucked it up and made a vow to become financially smart in 2019.
Divorce rocked my world and gave me the fire in my heart to forge my financial future independently. I learnt the hard way that I was part of the statistic of 56% of married women leaving major investing and financial planning decisions to their spouses.
On the flip side, I became part of the statistic of the 91% of women who see divorce as an opportunity to focus on their career and take better control of their finances (Financial Fresh Start study, 2018). I made goals to increase income, start saving again for retirement and buy a home. This meant taking some hard steps backwards in the hope of rocketing forward.
I left my one bedroom apartment at the end of my lease and moved into a room share situation, reducing my rent by over a half. It is becoming a reality of my generation of single person households for co-living to be the norm. High rents make saving and investment almost impossible otherwise.
According to a study by Trulia in 2017, millennials are most affected by increasing housing costs, with more than 20% living with roommates and an astonishing 60% living with either roommates or families.
My career focus paid off and with an increase in income from a new position plus the savings in my budget from the lower rent, I was able to start 2019 by moving forward towards my financial goals.
Communicating my confusion about home buying opportunities, a co-worker suggested I contacted Trellis, a non-profit organization that provides home ownership counseling and financial access to individuals and families wanting to purchase a home.
I set up an account online and called to speak to Gloria; a client services representative. I explained my situation and that I am starting to rebuild my financial stability from scratch. I told Gloria that I struggle to understand the home buying process here in the US and how it seems an impossible task to save the funds needed for a down payment.
Gloria was comforting and explained I will be assigned a housing counsellor who will go through the process with me, talk through my budget, help me to improve my credit and see what financial assistance I may qualify for, all at zero cost. Gloria explained Trellis is a one stop shop of home buying counseling, lending, realtor and financial assistance resources.
Knowing I have the option of working with a counsellor to help me navigate this daunting process is reassuring.
I am at the initial stages of the process with Trellis, working on uploading all of my financial documentation needed for my counsellor to start working with me. I’m excited to be able to share my journey on how Trellis may help me to meet my home purchasing goals. If I can get there, I will feel proud to be embracing the opportunities available to me and continuing my journey towards financial independence.
The Arizona Housing Coalition is proud to continue its work to fully restore the State Housing Trust Fund. Created in 1988, the State Housing Trust Fund is the only state resource devoted to addressing Arizona’s housing needs. It is funded from the sale of unclaimed property, such as stocks, savings accounts, or real estate abandoned by the owner, often due to death without a will.
Prior to budget cuts, the Housing Trust Fund acted as a magnet for private investment, leveraged over $350 million in federal dollars annually, and helped 10,000 Arizonans each year avoid homelessness, repair dilapidated homes, and become first time homebuyers. For every $10 million investment in the State Housing Trust Fund, in addition to providing homes for families in need, it could generate $23 million in economic impact and up to 200 jobs each year. It is the goal of the Arizona Housing Coalition and our allies to continue to work towards the full restoration of the State Housing Trust Fund to its pre-recession funds.
Later this month, we have an opportunity to let our elected representatives know how important affordable housing and ending homelessness are to Arizonans all across the state, and we need your help!
The Arizona State Legislature is scheduled to convene January 14. This year, lawmakers will vote on multiple laws surrounding affordable housing and homelessness. By using the Request to Speak (RTS) program, we can become a commanding presence throughout the legislative session, and let our elected officials know that bills relating to these issues need to be a top priority.
RTS is a way for the public to register an opinion on bills scheduled to be voted on, and gives individuals an opportunity to speak about proposed bills during legislative committee sessions. Individuals must register at the kiosks at the State Capitol before weighing in on legislation. Anyone who has attended an Arizona Housing Coalition’s Day at the Legislature in the past should have received log-in information.
If you have not attended or have lost your log-in information, you can complete this sign-in form and our partners at Protecting Arizona’s Families will go to the Capitol to create an account for you. Once the account is created, you will receive an email confirming that your account is activated. If you can make it, please plan on attending the 2019 Day at the Capitol (event details forthcoming!).
Let’s fill the Capitol with our voices and keep affordable housing and ending homelessness on the forefront of the conversation this legislative session! Learn more about the bills being introduced by visiting the Arizona State Legislature website, then sign up to speak using the RTS online portal.
The Arizona Housing Coalition will be leading the charge on restoring the state housing trust fund as our primary legislative priority. We will also advocate for additional state resources to address affordable housing and services to individuals in a housing crisis by monitoring the state budget negotiations and bills being introduced.
The Legislative Session convenes January 14 and should adjourn 100 days later. Let’s make the most of this legislative session and ensure affordable housing and ending homelessness are our elected official’s top priorities in 2019.
Over 2,000 veterans and their families are expected to attend the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance’s annual StandDown event in Maricopa County in January, where they will have access to free services relating to housing, hygiene and medical care.
The two-day event will take place Thursday, Jan. 24 and Friday, Jan. 25 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance (AVSA), operating under the 501(c)3 of the Arizona Housing Coalition, coordinates the event, which is the largest of its kind in the country. AVSA holds similar StandDown events and resource fairs throughout the year in 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties.
A wide variety of services will be available to those in attendance, including housing assistance, pet care, government-issued IDs through the Motor Vehicles Department, medical, vision and behavioral health services and assistance in receiving federal benefits.
In order to keep up with the needs of those in attendance, high-demand services such as dental care will be available at StandDown again this year, while offerings such as overnight services will not be available on-site.
Dental care, ranked by the Department of Veterans Affairs as one of the top three unmet needs of veterans experiencing homelessness, will be provided by the Central Arizona Dental Society Mission of Mercy. Twenty-five full-service dental chairs will be provided by the organization, along with a fully-trained, volunteer staff to administer dental services.
More than 80 service providers will be onsite to volunteer their services to veterans attendance, including officials from the Arizona Superior Court and multiple municipalities, the Social Security Administration office and the Department of Economic Services.The Central Arizona Dental Society Mission of Mercy is spearheading dental services, and will provide 25 full-service dental chairs.
In addition to providing immediate necessities to veterans, AVSA aims to use the StandDown events as a way to increase community awareness surrounding the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Arizona. At any given time, there are nearly 1,000 veterans in need of shelter in the state.
The first Maricopa County StandDown event was held in 2001 and has since grown to be the largest event of its kind in the nation. The Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance was created in 2014 in an attempt to unify the efforts of StandDown events and resource fairs held throughout the state. The AVSA now collaborates with government officials and community leaders in 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties, where they work to fill in service gaps, leverage financial resources, build statewide partnerships and maintain accurate data in order to create a collective impact on the homeless veteran population throughout Arizona.
More information on attending the event or working as a volunteer can be found here. Elected officials, dignitaries, and the media are invited to visit the StandDown event and receive a personal tour from the leadership team. To make arrangements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 623-225-6728.
More than 600 people attended the Arizona Housing Coalition’s (AZHC) two-day annual conference, which featured 12 educational tracks, 69 individual breakout sessions and two nationally-recognized keynote speakers.
Keynote speakers for the 25th Annual Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness included Richard Rothstein, author of the New York Times Bestseller The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, and Dr. Matthew Whittaker, Found and CEO of Diamond Strategies, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.
“One of the most beneficial things we can do to make our vision for a healthy, housed Arizona a reality is to better understand how we got to this point,” said Joan Serviss, Executive Director for AZHC. “Mr. Rothstein and Dr. Whittaker did an incredible job breaking down our country’s history of redlining and segregated housing, which in turn allows us to learn from the mistakes of the past so we can build a more inclusive future.”
Attendees had the opportunity to attend educational tracks covering issues such as criminal justice, advocacy, racial justice and innovative solutions to housing, with breakout sessions that took in-depth look at gentrification, media and messaging strategies, barriers of justice and affordable housing in rural Arizona. Presentations from breakout sessions can be found here.
Nine awards were given out at the conference, including the Lifetime Achievement Award to Sharon Shore, Chief Operations Officer for HOM, and the Arthur G. Sloane Five-Star Leader Award to Brad Bridwell, the Director of Community Development for Cloudbreak Communities. A full list of this year’s awards recipients can be found here.
The Arizona Housing Coalition (AZHC) is holding its annual resource fairs for the 18th straight year, and is expected to aid thousands of veterans and their family members experiencing homelessness throughout the state.
Through the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance program, AZHC’s StandDown events are credited with providing assistance to 3,218 veterans and their families in 2018 alone.
“It’s incredible to see so many people and organizations come together to help us provide these critically needed services for our veterans and their families,” says Shane Groen, Director of Special Projects for AZHC. “These are services they may not get any other time throughout the year, and the positive impact this event has on their lives is immeasurable.”
This will be the 18th year the StandDown events takes place, with events held in 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties. AZHC aims to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness among veterans while teaching various agencies and organizations how to collaborate throughout the year and end homelessness among veterans.
The first StandDown event will take place in Maricopa County on Jan. 24-25, with events in other counties taking place throughout the year. The schedule of events can be found here: https://azhousingcoalition.org/avsa. Maricopa County’s StandDown is the largest resource fair of its kind in the entire country, and will provide services ranging from haircuts to dental work.
“The ability for someone to come in and get dental work - or even something as simple as a haircut and resume assistance - could have a significant impact in their life,” says Groen. “It brings a ray of hope to those who need it most.”
For more information on AVSA, including a list of event dates, resources available and volunteer opportunities, please visit the AZHC website.
As the affordable housing crisis in the United States continues to grow, some housing experts are beginning to challenge the power longtime homeowners have over lower-class renters.
“So many cities are seeing long-standing pro-ownership policies come face to face with growth,” says Randy Shaw, housing activist and author of Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. "Cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, and Austin all face similar problems as San Francisco. The nation perceived this as a problem that was only in certain cities, and now it’s spread.”
The Metro Phoenix area is consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. But with growing populations comes growing problems.
According to a study put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, while more than 250,000 Arizona renters qualify for housing assistance, only 17 percent of them receive aid to offset the cost of rent. That leaves approximately 225,000 low-income renters pay more than half o their income for housing.
Members of Congress like Senators including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren have included detailed housing reform plans as part of their political platform. Others, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, have pushed for raising the minimum wage, a move that would allow renters to put less of their paycheck into rent, and more into saving
City leaders are also beginning to take action and work towards solutions to aid those negatively affected by high housing costs. Seattle, Denver, Portland San Francisco, and Austin have joined other municipalities across the country in implementing pro-growth policies like housing bonds.
“There’s been a wakeup call around America,” he says. “This book is based on the idea that cities can make a change and make this work.”
Arizona Housing Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profitFederal Tax ID#: 86-0909029
AZHC is also the proud home of the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance
1495 E. Osborn Rd.Phoenix, AZ 85014(602) 340-9393