Can Other Cities Learn From Tempe’s Housing Plan?

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, February 3, 2020 - 5:05am

When Tempe City Council members approved an affordable housing strategy last year it included three priorities. The first involves impact statements. The city’s Housing Manager LeVon Lamy said city staff ask developers for details upfront so Tempe can keep track of what’s available. 

“Are you taking any housing units out and are you putting any in? And if you are, what was the price point of what you were taking out and what’s the price point of what you’re putting in?” he said.

During a January presentation to the Maricopa Association of Governments, Lamy shared two other Tempe priorities: expanding incentives to developers and the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

“We can’t just beat on developers because businesses have to make a profit, that’s kind of how that works,” he said. “How do we do a development bonus program?”

Lamy said Tempe’s overall plan includes twenty strategies to be able to respond to the market. 

“During this process one of things we did is we set up an affiliate nonprofit of the Housing Authority,” he said. “So we buy townhouses, houses, apartment complexes and we tie them up. They are permanently affordable rental housing so that we will always have a base number  of units-albeit not enough, but there will always be a base number of units so that we know we’re going to have some affordable housing.”

Lamy said federal funding is not enough to meet local housing demands, and Tempe determined it needed a recurring million dollars a year to come in and gave the city five years to figure out where the money will come from.

“What we are working on is the compounding effect,” he said. “We’ve been buying units for two years. By the end of this fiscal year, we will own 50 units. The program income that we generate off renting those units out now is at a point that we’re using that income to buy more permanently affordable rental units.”

Tempe’s plan will be discussed during a task force roundtable Wednesday, Feb., 5 organized by the Urban Land Institute’s Arizona chapter. It will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Flinn Foundation, 1802 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ.

“We had been spending more than probably about a year listening to different people come to our advisory board and provide presentations to us on the different aspects of the challenges because it’s really complex, there’s a lot of layers to this,” Kristen Busby, ULI Arizona director told MAG’s Economic Development Committee.

She said the group received a grant to research best practices to support what ULI Arizona defined as "workforce housing," which includes households with annual incomes between $37,333 and $74,667 with monthly housing costs between $933 and $1,866.

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