Arizona budget set to include largest-ever investment in Housing Trust Fund

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 - 2:26pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 - 2:39pm

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Arizona Housing Trust Fund chart
Arizona Department of Housing
Arizona's Housing Trust Fund was capped during the 2008 Great Recession.

Arizona lawmakers are close to finalizing this year’s state budget. But affordable housing advocates are already celebrating the state’s plan to make a historic investment this year to address homelessness.

Lawmakers are planning to direct $150 million toward Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund — more than they’ve ever allocated to that fund in a single year. 

“It’s a massive deal,” said Joanna Carr, policy director with the nonprofit affordable housing advocacy group, Arizona Housing Coalition. “It will allow us to develop more affordable housing, preserve what we already have, and bring more services to those experiencing homelessness. Whether it’s enough is yet to be seen, but it is a huge, huge step in the right direction.”

The Housing Trust Fund was established in 1989 as a flexible funding source for affordable housing, housing assistance and other programs to combat homelessness. But during the 2008 Great Recession, the fund was capped at $2.5 million per year. In the years since, some Arizona lawmakers have sponsored bills to reinvest in the fund, but most attempts were unsuccessful. In 2019, lawmakers agreed to direct $15 million to the fund as part of the state budget, and in 2022, they budgeted $60 million for it. But this year's $150 million dwarfs any previous allocation for the fund. 

The investment comes at a critical time.

"We are in a situation where we are in the most significant housing crisis that we've ever seen in Arizona,” Carr said.  

In Maricopa County, the homeless population has increased more than 70% since 2017. And the city of Phoenix this week is being forced to clear a massive homeless encampment downtown. 

Carr said she thinks lawmakers felt more pressure this year to address homelessness than in years past.

“The issues are just becoming more visible, and more apparent and impacting more people, which is obviously unfortunate, but it’s giving rise to constituents asking for action and more pressure on lawmakers to do something about this issue," Carr said. 

In addition to the $150 million investment in the Housing Trust Fund, lawmakers plan to set aside an additional $60 million this year for a new Homeless Shelter and Services Fund administered by the Arizona Department of Housing. They also plan to spend $5 million for programs for homeless veterans and $5 million for corrections reentry programs.

Carr said she is optimistic the budget allocations will make a significant impact in addressing the state’s housing shortage.  

“It’s kind of exactly what we need to fill the funding gaps.”