As Maricopa strives to achieve its dream of economic sustainability, a serious need most likely must be addressed before that dream may come to fruition – the need for affordable housing.
A study recently conducted by city Development Services, aptly named the Housing Needs Assessment, will be presented to the city council July 18. Part of it indicates this very need for affordable, multifamily housing.
The assessment, according to Maricopa Development Services Director Martin Scribner, underpins the necessity for “affordable housing” which is important to drawing in young professionals in need of low-maintenance rentable living spaces.
Unfortunately, Scribner said, the term “affordable housing” is often seen as a dirty word that needs to be redefined.
“When our consultant says, ‘you lack affordable housing,’ we say, ‘no, we don’t, we have lots of affordable housing,” Scribner said. “But that’s the families and professionals who can afford the $1,200 a month, $1,500 a month in rent.”
Comparatively, Scribner added, Maricopa does have some of the most affordably priced housing. However, there isn’t much room for people who can’t afford even those prices.
To be clear, Scribner is not advocating for the construction of government-subsidized housing. Nonetheless, he does see a need in the community for domiciles that a young workforce can utilize while transitioning into a more permanent position in life.
“Workforce housing includes entry-level police officers, firefighters, teachers and even young IT professionals.” Scribner said. “Say I’m a first-year teacher looking for a one-bedroom apartment for 600 bucks a month or 700 bucks a month. That doesn’t exist here,” Scribner said. “
The housing study is not an official plan for housing development. However, the assessment will, among other things, help the city create such a plan which, like their economic development goal, should be a measured and sustainable response to the city’s needs.
The other major purpose of the study is more utilitarian, Scribner said. It ultimately gives the city a statistical tool to use when discussing development with builders.
“We, as the planning professionals in my department, might look at the developers and say, ‘You might want to look at some type of multi-family [housing] over here,’ and they’ll look at us and say, ‘Yeah, the market is just not ready for that,’” Scribner said. “And we have a professional study that says we’re ready for that now.”