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When Affordable for the County Isn't Affordable for the Neighborhood

A critical question arises in response to an affordable housing project proposed in Phoenix: When measuring a project's affordability, does the larger county's median income matter when some neighborhoods are struggling well beyond that measure?
August 11, 2020, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Maricopa County, Arizona

"A developer plans to build 161 mixed-income apartments and 64 townhomes in south Phoenix where residents can work toward ownership, but critics say say [sic] the homes aren't affordable enough," reports Megan Taros. 

Here's how the affordability of the proposed development breaks down in context of Phoenix's economic conditions:

The project, by Chicanos por la Causa, has promised that 10 of the units will go to residents earning 30% to 60% of Maricopa County's median income of $77,800 for a single family.

Eligible renters are capped at 60% of this area median income, making it 100% affordable according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards.

But many residents in the neighborhood make far less than the project's asking prices. The average median income for residents in the 85040 ZIP code, where the project is proposed, is less than $39,000 a year, according to American Community Survey data cited in the article. 

With light rail expected to arrive in the neighborhood by 2024, local activists are predicting that the project is a sign of gentrification to come. "SoPho Convening, a community organization dedicated to equitable economic development, and residents asked the Phoenix City Council in July to delay approval to allow Chicanos por la Causa to work with stakeholders in the project," according to Taros.

The project has achieved mixed success during the planning approvals process. The South Mountain Village Planning Committee voted to reject the project, but the Phoenix Planning Commission voted to approve.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, August 6, 2020 in Arizona Republic
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