A Q&A With the CEO of Trellis on Arizona’s Nightmare of a Housing Market

By Jessica Swarner

August 23, 2021

“We just need to be patient and wait for the right time, and hopefully, our housing market will be more manageable.”

Many Arizonans are finding themselves being pushed out of the housing market. 

Experts have confirmed the market is unusually competitive right now, with some buyers paying in cash, waiving inspections and appraisals, and offering much more than the asking price. They have pointed to a number of reasons for this boom, including a low supply of housing in Arizona and people from all over the US moving to the state.

To dig further into the topic, we spoke to Patricia Garcia Duarte, the president and CEO of Trellis, a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization dedicated to neighborhood revitalization through various housing programs. “As a community, we need to work together,” she said during a recent Instagram Live. “We need to tell our representatives that we want housing for all, for all income levels. And there [are] ways that, together as a community, I know we can come up with some solutions to help more people take advantage of affordable housing, whether it’s a rental unit or an ownership unit.”


Watch the full conversation above, or check out some highlights below.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

The Copper Courier: I want to just start out by just talking about some of the things that we [have talked about previously], some trends that you’ve seen in the housing market when it comes to low supply and competition, more people paying with cash, some people waiving inspections and home appraisals. It seems like the home buying process isn’t operating as normally as it would.

Patricia Garcia Duarte: It’s really out of whack. You know, last year, 2020 was a weird year, right? And ’21 is proving to be very similar to 2020, so the same thing has happened with the real estate market here in Arizona and in a lot of places around the nation. 

We teach people how to buy the right way, what to do, what questions to ask, how to find a real estate agent, how to find a mortgage loan and all these things. Why a home inspection is important? It costs a little money but it really benefits people in the long run to better understand the condition of that home with a home inspection. And so we teach all of this, and this crazy market, we’re learning that people are getting desperate and because there’s such a shortage, in order to compete, people are putting themselves at risk by waiving, not doing some of those smart practices, best practices around buying a home like not wanting an appraisal, giving that up, paying more than the asking price.

And so those are some of the things that are happening because people are desperate, right? So the narrative, the messaging is that there’s not enough inventory, which is true. We have reached some record lows. I think in the last 20 years, we didn’t see what we’re seeing now, meaning that we have two weeks worth of inventory, and that inventory is unfortunately very high-priced for most of the people that are looking to buy.

So what we do at Trellis is we really help people set some goals and manage the process. What I tell people, and you covered this in your story the last time, it’s important not to give up. If it’s not possible right now, then there’s still a lot of homework that aspiring homeowners can do. For example—save, save, save, save as much as you can, and also work on paying down debt. Those two factors are important because the more savings or the less debt, the bigger the buying power will be when the time is right.

So many people always say, they ask me all the time, when is the right time to buy? And honestly, my best answer has always been [that] the right time to buy is when you are ready, when you can afford it, because that’s the key.

CC: There are a lot of people saying with all the craziness going on and I want to buy a house, what should I do?

PGD: The thing that is important to remember, especially in Arizona where we have been a crash-and-boom type economy, our real estate has been a roller coaster. It goes up and it comes down, it goes up and it comes down. It’s been a pattern. I don’t know why it wouldn’t come down. 

And I say it cautiously—I do expect some normalcy, but when we overreact or people pay regardless, it doesn’t help the aggregate. I think we need to be more patient. I believe I read something that things are starting to, not stabilize, but prices are not continuing to go up, or the number of overpriced homes have been kind of maintained, steady. So I think overall, we just need to be patient and wait for the right time, and hopefully, our housing market will be more manageable.

RELATED: Middle-Class Arizonans Are Being Pushed Out of the Housing Market

I know many economists do say that this is different, that this is not a housing bubble. And I’m glad it’s not a housing bubble. Call it whatever it is right now, it’s too much demand. My understanding is there are a lot of people coming to Arizona—we’re having a population growth and that’s okay—but we need to make sure that our local people, that we all have housing. 

We know too well that other neighboring states have had really poor housing solutions and the homeless population has grown. Let’s not let Arizona be like that. So that’s why we need to all understand the continuum of housing, all the different levels of housing that [are] needed to have a prosperous community. When we all do good, the economy will also do good.

CC: What are some things you want to see to increase the supply of affordable housing around here?

PGD: Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, but it takes a village to build a village, right? So there’s a lot of funding coming from the federal level to the state, to the municipalities. It’s important that we all as a community provide them input and let them know that we expect them to use funding as allowed to help bring more affordable housing for all people, for the entry level and the middle, because like I said, when we all do better, our economies do better. 

So we need to be more innovative. There [are] different products out there that could be more affordable, but we’re so hardwired in the old fashioned way of doing things that we’re not open to new possibilities. Manufactured housing brings a lot of promises, but as a society, we don’t give it enough credit because we put it in a box thinking that it’s a trailer. Well, the manufactured homes of these days are nothing compared to what we used to see. You’re much younger than I am, but trailers were not given a very good reputation, and we have to put that aside and understand that technology has advanced and products are better. 

Looking for the latest Arizona news? Sign up for our FREE daily newsletter.

So we need to be more open to new options of construction materials, types of housing, town home styles, multi-generation types. I mean, more things. We’re too used to building on a grid that is just same old, same old, very sanitized communities, segregating groups. We need to change all of that. I think that based on where we are now, we can agree that it’s not working really good. So it’s time to roll up our sleeves and listen to some of the housing experts, look at what our neighbors have done in other states and take those good practices and bring them here so we can have more housing options for all people, especially the hard working people.

CC: Something else that a lot of our readers reported seeing is a lot of homes around them being bought by investors and then being rented out, instead of a family buying and owning the home. Can you talk about the trend of that happening and what that means for families who want to buy homes?

PGD: You know, unfortunately during the Great Recession, there was a lot of housing inventory that we lost to investors, to institutional investors and small mom-and pop-investors. So to me, what that means is that that inventory is not available for a potential owner, for someone to start building wealth. Those properties are making money for somebody else, and most likely, someone not even in our state and a big corporation. So how is that benefiting us as a community? 

CC: Is there anything else that you wanted to add that we didn’t touch on?

PGD: Right now, I know that the moratorium was extended for renters and homeowners. If they need help, they need to reach out. Calling 211 might be the best and easiest way to connect them to the right resources. 

There’s a lot of money coming to the state and it’s not making it out to the communities as fast as needed because it’s kind of bureaucratic and the infrastructure is not what needs to be. But please, if they’re needing assistance, know that there’s a network of nonprofit organizations or the 211 phone number.

RELATED: Received an Eviction Notice? Here Are Some Resources That May Help.


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


Local News

Related Stories
Share This