Saturday morning, residents continued the discussion during “Councilman on the Corner,” a public forum held regularly by Councilman Henry Wade.
“This subject seems to have resonated when I put it out there in Facebook and social media as to a question I posed,” Wade said. “It generated quite a bit of discussion, although that question was quite a small part of what the housing assessment is all about.”
Some residents argued the apartment and condominium units would bring down property values and attract crime.
“I also value that we have low crime, and that’s partly because of the kind of neighborhood that we have,” said resident Leonard Gonchar.
Maricopans who support the idea fired back.
“As a retired person, I’m not an undesirable,” said resident Karen Balliet, who said she cannot afford the cost of a single-family home in the city.
Balliet said after her husband died, she closed her business and searched for a home in Maricopa near her children and grandchildren.
“I was going to have to go to Casa Grande or Chandler to be as close as I could to them,” Balliet said. “But luckily for me, they built a multigenerational home so I could move in with them. That’s the only choice I had.”
Maricopa Development Services Director Martin Scribner said besides a few exceptions in Province, a retirement community, Maricopa is dominated by single family housing.
Scribner said the city is losing opportunities to attract multi-family housing developers, as well as the renters who would occupy the units.
“They have to be making somewhere near $50,000 per year in order to afford the housing here,” Scribner said.
City officials said housing and rental costs pose a challenge to not just retirees on a fixed income, but also to young professionals in the infancy of their careers.
Patti Coutré, president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board, said the district hired 80 employees for the new school year, many of whom are single and hired within the first five years of teaching.
Coutré said the housing costs in Maricopa often drive young educators to live in the Valley and make a long commute to work.
“If we can get them living in Maricopa, we have a better chance of retaining them. That’s one of our goals because it does show that our schools will get better if we can retain the employees,” Coutré said.
Scribner and Wade reiterated multi-family housing does not necessarily equate to “affordable housing” and the negative conations that often accompany the term.
However, Project Manager Kazi Haque said meetings with county agencies and local school districts proved there is also a need for housing for lower-income families as well.
“There is a lot of tendency for homelessness, which you don’t see every day,” Haque said. “There is homelessness over here, but it is undercover.”
In September, the city will begin work on a housing plan that will set priorities for the future of Maricopa housing.