Tucson Development Boom Threatens Displacement of Longtime Residents

Median rent in Tucson rose by 30 percent since a year ago, prompting fears of displacement among many residents struggling to afford housing.

July 6, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

University of Arizona

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

“Rents are going up all over Arizona, as they are across the country, but Tucson, once considered sleepy and affordable, has seen a particularly painful spike.” As Brenda Muñoz Murguia reports in Phoenix Business Journal, “The median rent in Tucson in June was $1,795, up 30% from June 2021, according to Zillow data as of publication.” This is leading many longtime residents to relocate farther from the city center to more affordable neighborhoods.

“The redevelopment and push for upscale housing has put particular pressure on west Tucson and downtown.” According to the article, “Older neighborhoods that traditionally were lower income and predominantly Hispanic are transitioning to market-rate housing, pressured by new developments in nearby areas, with apartments renting for as much as $3,000 a month.”

Murguia points to one major factor impacting the desirability of these areas: the city’s “Government Property Lease Excise Tax, or GPLET, a tool that gives the city authority to grant incentives to build in particular areas.” Since its inception, Tucson has entered into 24 GPLET agreements, some of which converted affordable senior housing to luxury rentals. It should be noted that a 2021 study by University of Arizona professor Gary Pivo “found that GPLET projects were not the cause of gentrification, mainly because they constitute a small part of downtown development. However, it also said the GPLET program could do more to help people and businesses being displaced.” Pivo’s report “said GPLET should look for opportunities to create affordable housing for people who earn less than $35,000 a year.” Anecdotally, the article features the stories of several Tucson residents who struggle to afford housing and have had to move as rents rose.

Sunday, July 3, 2022 in Phoenix Business Journal

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