The Need for Affordable Housing in Tucson

Affordable Housing is defined as a housing unit where the costs do not exceed 30% of household income.   These households are often referred to as “cost-burdened”.   Housing costs include the following components:

  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Utilities
  • Insurance

In addition to the costs of housing, transportation costs and the lack of available mass transit opportunities can make affordable housing unaffordable.

From an Affordable Housing point of view, the statistics in Tucson are a mix of good and bad:

  • The Good:

    •  Tucson’s unemployment rate has been reduced from 4.8% at the end of 2016 down to 4.2% at the end of 2017. This tracks closely with the national average of 4.1% for the same time frame. 
    • According to MAP AZ’s 2017 Annual Report, 71.1% of homes sold in Tucson were affordable to a family earning the local median income. This ranks Tucson first among peer metropolitan areas in terms of housing affordability.
    • Rent as a statistic, which includes housing costs for both renters and buyers, in the Tucson metro is 12.1% below the national average.
  • The Bad:

    • Rental rates have been steadily rising in the Tucson metro area and median new-home prices hit a record high of nearly $299,000 in 2017.
    • As of February 2018, there are more than 18,000 families on the waiting list for Section 8 (government subsidized) housing, and no new applicants are being accepted at this time.
    • The poverty rate in the Tucson metro area was 19.1% in 2016. According to MAP AZ, this ranks Tucson 11th out of 12 western metro areas– Denver has the lowest poverty rate (10.9%) while the only metro area with a higher rate than Tucson is El Paso with a 22.5% rate.
    • 72% of rental households in Tucson are cost-burdened – paying more than 30% of their household income toward housing costs.
    • From 2012 to 2017, less than 10% of residential housing units built or rehabilitated in Tucson were dedicated or subsidized as affordable housing.  
    • According to a recent gap analysis of affordable housing in Pima County, a study which was commissioned by Family Housing Resources, Inc. (“FHR”) and performed by the University of Arizona, the number of affordable housing units available in Pima County is higher than the number of households who qualify as lower-income. However, a very high percentage of these affordable units are occupied by households that are above the lower-income threshold.  
    • The FHR study concluded that there are almost 91,000 more units of affordable housing needed to accommodate the lower-income households not currently living in affordable housing in Tucson.
    • Recent cuts in government funding for Affordable Housing have made it difficult for organizations like SALT to access the capital necessary to build new affordable units.

Unfortunately, Tucson has become known for its high levels of poverty and the resulting need for Affordable Housing is significant.  Even though average rents are much cheaper than many other comparable cities, Tucson’s disproportionately low wages for so many make housing costs a burden. Tragically, Tucson’s children suffer the most. A little over one in four children inside the city limits live in poverty – and over 60 percent of children from low-income families live in cost-burdened households homes that cost more than 30 percent of the family’s monthly income.

What does affordable housing do?

Cost-burdened families are left with little cash available for other basic necessities of life such as food, transportation and healthcare.  The financial pressure filters down into all areas of life.  Studies have shown that affordable housing can greatly improve the quality of life and has the following benefits:

Household stability –

Affordable housing provides critical stability for low-income households paying over half of their income on housing, and lowers the risk that vulnerable families become homeless.

Economic security –

High housing costs leave low-income families with little left over for other important expenses, leading to difficult budget trade-offs. Affordable housing increases the amount that families can put toward other important household needs and savings.

Education –

Housing instability can jeopardize children’s performance and success in school, leading to lasting achievement gaps, while a stable environment contributes to improved educational outcomes.

Health –

Housing insecurity can have serious negative health effects on both adults and children.

Transportation –

Housing close to transit can help residents save money and access jobs and critical community services, while improving health.

Neighborhood Quality –

Affordable housing increases local purchasing power, boosts job creation, and generates new tax revenues.

The need for affordable housing in Tucson is great and will continue to grow even as the local economy improves. Providing Safe Affordable Living in Tucson will make an immediate difference not only in the lives of individuals and families but also in communities and the City of Tucson as a whole.    

Safe Affordable Living in Tucson  orange-icon

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