What government strategies and policies, if any, do you believe can address Flagstaff’s high cost of living and unaffordability?
Encourage higher density, well planned, and attractive developments.
Discourage low density, large lot, single-family residential development.
Charge full legally permissible development impact fees so that new development pays for itself rather than spend general fund money on new roads, sewer, parks, etc.
Devote more general fund budget to the housing department.
Create an affordable housing incentive policy that is attractive to developers.
Expand the city’s land trust to maintain permanent affordability.
Rental prices in Flagstaff have increased 9-10% per year for the last three years. Home prices are higher than ever. The City has a ten-year old Incentive Policy for Affordable Housing for developers, which is not working. Without bringing the development community to the table, the City won’t make a dent in the problem. We also need to nurture strong relationships with the state and federal government to secure outside funding and change state laws that override local control, such as the state law prohibiting cities from requiring developers to include affordable housing in new developments (inclusionary zoning).
The Regional Plan 2030 is a strategic working document that’s designed to alleviate many pressures that Flagstaff will inevitably face under our future growth projections. This strategy outlines the placement of Activity Centers spread throughout the city where High Occupancy Multi Family Housing can be focused to, not only divert density from our neighborhoods, but also increase our housing stock thus promoting affordability. Although this plan has been indoctrinated, it is not a law and often suffers side effects from Proposition 207. From a policy standpoint, unifying this plan with our zoning code would promote its continuity and increase affordability.
The cost of housing is one of the biggest challenges that Council is trying to solve. I volunteered to be the Council liaison to the newly formed Housing Commission because I care about this issue. Essentially every housing project that comes to Council gets an agreement to have 10 percent Affordable units. The city participates in federal programs to build Affordable housing. But that is not enough. We need to encourage more home construction in the mid to low price ranges. I have pushed for an evaluation of city policies that are unnecessarily driving construction costs up.
Voters approved a minimum wage increase twice and this has been one policy that has helped many workers in our city maintain a livable wage (although many still live paycheck-to-paycheck). Another solution can be a bond that, if approved, would offer assistance to homelessness housing permanency, renters, first-time home buyers, purchase of city-owned land for affordable housing development, and the purchase of existing sites for redevelopment. Creating further incentive programs with developers can also help. Set-aside requirements and rent control may also be needed if we do not figure out other ways to ensure access is more equitable.
I believe there is a role of government that encourages more housing stock that makes sense. For example Accessory Dwelling Units(ADU) needs to be allowed when new construction happens or where’s there an existing residential unit that would like to add an ADU. The one item I’m really excited about is the potential of redevelopment of City owned and managed housing stock. The City is ready to put out a request to partner with the City to increase the housing stock to help the most vulnerable in our community.
State operating subsidies programs, ballot-initiated bonds, and private-public land trust agreements can begin to address Flagstaff’s high cost of living and lack of affordability. A recent report found that roughly 60% of Flagstaff’s citizens are burdened by their housing costs, and that 23% of homeowners are financially overextended due to housing costs. That means that we need to build more housing, and more affordable housing, in Flagstaff. It’s imperative for the City of Flagstaff to keep affordable housing a top priority for Flagstaff’s citizens.
The struggle with affordability has been a longstanding conversation with Flagstaff residents. We have a 15% higher cost of living than the national average. One of the biggest influences on the cost of living is housing. Right now we have a large gap in obtainable workforce housing. The city has housing partnerships in place like Housing Solutions, and we also have a newly formed housing commission. As Flagstaff continues to grow it will be crucial that we work with these partnerships. Affordable housing needs to be incentivised differently if we want to see more of it.