Non-profit Turns Abandoned South Mountain Development Into Affordable Housing

By Annika Cline, Mark Brodie
Published: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 4:24pm
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Trellis held open houses in a few of their new homes in south Phoenix Tuesday.

Trellis, a non-profit developer, opened the doors to nine new homes in south Phoenix Tuesday morning. The non-profit took over the abandoned development during the housing crisis and turned it into an affordable neighborhood.

It used to be a ghost development.

“We came in 2010 and half of the houses that were already built were unoccupied,” said Joe Keesecker, a resident in Montaña Bella, which sits just north of South Mountain.

The development had been abandoned during the housing crisis. It was then purchased by Trellis, formerly Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix.

“This community looked pretty sad because there were houses that were just left abandoned and incomplete,” said president and CEO of Trellis Patricia Garcia Duarte.

Just 10 of the homes were finished, leaving 16 partially built homes and 18 vacant lots. Trellis finished the partial homes, and Tuesday morning they celebrated the completion of nine new homes.

The prices range from $175,000 to $195,000 , which Garcia Duarte said is an affordable rate in this area for new homes. But she said there’s more to these homes that makes them affordable.

People attending the open house check out the energy efficient lighting and plumbing that aims to reduce utility costs. They walk across the fully accessible floor plan. A resident using a mobility aid like a wheelchair would not have to spend extra to retrofit the house to meet his or her needs.

Outside the development, the South Mountain area is changing, too. Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego told the crowd at the open house that the council recently approved new public transit investments here.

“We moved up by more than a decade light rail coming to the South Mountain area just this month, so we are on the rise,” she said.

Of course, an up-and-coming neighborhood will see home prices climbing up, too. According to the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, the 85041 zip code has already seen a nearly 11 percent increase in median prices for single-family homes from 2015 to 2016.

Garcia Duarte said that makes it all the more important to offer affordable options.

“Prices continue to go up. Unfortunately wages don’t go up at the same rate,” she said.

Keesecker is just happy the lots are no longer empty.

“We’re excited about who our new neighbors are going to be,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are around 7,000 subsidized apartments in Maricopa County. Their owners have generally signed 20-year agreements to keep those units affordable.

When that deal is up, they can opt out and take their apartments to market. However, of the 7,000 subsidized units in the county, HUD said over the next five years, only nine contracts will be expiring, or fewer than 700 units.

Stephanie Smelnick is the Arizona Field Office Director for HUD. She spoke about the process.

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