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Mesa Council Debates Downtown Housing

Light-rail construction is in progress on Main Street in downtown Mesa. Photo credit: Parker Leavitt/The Republic

By Maria Polletta for The Arizona Republic

Mesa’s evolving downtown needs housing to thrive. On that much, the City Council agrees.

But the vision for what that housing should look like — in terms of location, financing and target demographics — is more than a little muddled.

As light rail continues its march down Main Street, some officials argue a series of affordable-housing developments catering to low-income families and young people will be critical. Those populations often use public transportation, they say, and could help foster a more constant hum of activity in the city’s core.

Others support only a fraction of the affordable-housing proposals their colleagues endorse, insisting Mesa must be selective and hold off for more market-rate developments. If downtown becomes an increasingly desirable place to live, the city will regret having approved complexes with rent restrictions, they say.

The clashing perspectives came to a head late last month in a rare split vote.

City staff at a Jan. 22 study session had asked the Council to approve letters of support for four proposed affordable-housing complexes, to give developers an edge as they apply for federal tax credits. The tax breaks, issued through the Arizona Department of Housing, allow developers to charge lower rents and still make a profit.

Council support for providing letters to La Mesita Phase III and El Rancho Apartments Phase II was unanimous — sans Mayor John Giles, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time. La Mesita offers social services through non-profit A New Leaf, while El Rancho focuses on families and the arts.

When it came to letters for Sycamore Station and the Hub at Mesa Lofts, though, the Council was deadlocked, 3-3, and the motion failed.

Read more at The Arizona Republic