Rent costs have gone up within the last year across Tempe, and residents are looking to the City Council for solutions. Housing costs on an upward climb have impacted a large population of the city, college students among them.
"We're not in a luxury housing crisis, we're in an affordable housing crisis," said Harlie Jackson, a junior studying political science.
"The affordable housing crisis is very much alive. It's very much affecting so many Tempe residents and so many students who live in Tempe. If we continue to build apartments that cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 a month, we are not going to solve the affordable housing crisis," Jackson said. Many residents, like Jackson, are looking to the City Council for answers.
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Jackson said new luxury builds like the South Pier project are going to take affordable housing opportunities away.
"The people who are building these luxury houses do not have to worry about the affordable housing crisis but the people living in this city do. And we need to change that," Jackson said.
The city of Tempe website lists programs offered by its Housing Services department. According to the website, options like COVID-19 Response, Renting in Tempe and Homeless Assistance exist to help mitigate the effects of rising rent costs.
"No, it's not a solution. It's not meant to be a solution," councilmember Lauren Kuby said of the South Pier building. "The higher cost of land on the lake makes it difficult to create affordable housing there."
She said the hope is that South Pier will have to devote a certain amount of money to be put into the city's Hometown for All initiative, introduced by Mayor Corey Woods. The goal of the initiative is to sustainably fund affordable and workforce housing. Kuby said there is just over $6 million in the fund to invest in housing options.
Kuby said the council is considering more 3D printed homes like the first one in the country built by Habitat for Humanity, that was built last year in Tempe. She said ASU needs to partner with the city to create a lasting effect as more students move to the city.
"The University should have a commitment to create affordable housing. … They have not been doing their job. They have the land and they need to have the willpower to do so," Kuby said.
In an emailed statement, an ASU spokesperson said ASU is committed to providing on-campus housing to first-year students and as many other students as possible.
"We create opportunities and experiences for our residential students that extend beyond the physical structure to add enhanced value to the overall ASU experience," the spokesperson said. "ASU has kept rate increases to a minimum - far lower than surrounding properties in the cities where we have a have presence."
The spokesperson also said students facing difficulties at ASU should contact the dean of students to help them navigate obstacles.
Berdetta Hodge was one of the two newest Tempe City Council members elected in March. She said in an email, "I vow to work with my fellow elected officials and city staff to be an advocate for more workforce housing projects across our city. … I will work with my fellow council members to transform underutilized and vacant lots into something that can benefit our city's great residents and prevent them from moving away."
Kuby said part of the reason it's so hard for the council to pressure developers for affordable housing in such a high-demand area is because rent control is illegal in Arizona. She wants to use inclusionary housing to change that.
"If rent continues to go up, Tempe residents and students are going to be pushed out of Tempe. … I think this is really going to disproportionately affect students," Jackson said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @HanzukC on Twitter.
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