Resistance Mounting Against Rental Developments

Credit: AZ Big Media

The need for new housing units in the Phoenix area is greater than at any point in recent memory. Demand has steadily outpaced supply, leading to year-over-year rent increases of 17.7 percent in May and likely dropping the region from 29th to 38th on Zillow’s list of most affordable metro areas.

Despite an estimated need for 150,000 rental units by 2030, building has fallen from a high of nearly 106,000 units in the 1980s to an average of 47,000 per decade since.

Even though the need is widely recognized as urgent, however, resistance to new development, particularly in multifamily, is growing across Valley cities.

While planners say the approval process is fairly straightforward for areas already zoned for rental housing, housing experts and advocates point out municipalities generally have very few desirable locations with appropriate zoning already in place, triggering extensive and sometimes difficult reviews and approvals when rezoning is needed.

Zoning and land use plans in place for years may no longer reflect market demands and realities, advocates say, leading to conflicts between residents and officials resistant to change and owners and developers seeking to maximize returns and satisfy market demand.

Arizona Multihousing Association President and CEO Courtney LeVinus has called some zoning designations “arbitrary” and commented that local governments’ actions to limit growth, density and building heights can artificially tighten an already constricted market.

The resistance to approve zoning and development modification by planning and other municipal government officials often reflects the opposition expressed by existing residents, who often turn out in large numbers to vociferously oppose perceived impacts to neighborhood character, increased traffic and obstructed views. Despite little-to-no solid evidence in support of such claims, opponents also express concerns over increases in crime and decreased property values associated with apartment developments.

As residents’ social engagement increases, officials are more likely now than in past eras to give ear to their “Not In My Back Yard” concerns, making rezoning and plan approval processes more cumbersome and requiring developers to satisfy stipulations addressing concerns or adding or modifying plan components, adding cost and delaying the process.

Unfortunately for both NIMBY-oriented residents and new and potential occupants needing housing in one of the fastest growing metros in the country, no quick equilibrium appears to be on the horizon. (Source)

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