League of Cities and Towns’ response to housing bill

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A bill being considered by the Arizona legislature to address the affordable housing issue could take control of zoning decisions from cities, according to critics of the bill.

Nick Ponder, Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs at HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, and President of Rounds Consulting Jim Rounds discussed the intricacies of this bill and what it could mean for Arizona.

“Our challenge with the bill initially has been that they didn’t actually tackle affordability,” Ponder said on behalf of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns. “There was a lot of focus in there on benefits to developers and the development community, which creates an unbalance in our view between the rights of the residents versus the rights of developers.”

The bill requires cities to approve zoning changes from any zoning type, including commercial or agriculture, to residential, Ponder said.

“My thought is this entire process is going from the bottom up when it should be the top down,” Rounds said.

According to Rounds, none of the reports in a peer review conducted for the League of Cities identified the real cause of the housing affordability issue. To get through COVID, there was massive federal spending, and interest rates were low for a very long time, which is why this is seen throughout the country, Rounds said.

“What we don’t support is some of the preemptive measures that say that on any residential lot you have to allow duplexes,” Ponder said. “The challenge that we have with the [idea of housing] half-a-mile from the light rail is that it requires a rezone. It grants greater property rights for rezoning; it’s called By-Right Zoning. In fact, in South Central Phoenix, our majority-minority communities there worked on a plan with the City of Phoenix for three years to ensure that they weren’t gentrified out and that their businesses weren’t moved away.”

This upcoming legislation actually overturns this local process, according to Ponder.

Nick Ponder, Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs at HighGround Public Affairs Consultants; Jim Rounds, President of Rounds Consulting

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