old closed down building with motel sign above it
A former hotel at Van Buren and 29th streets in central Phoenix that will be converted into 50 affordable housing units (Photo by Jessica Swarner)

The number of people experiencing unsheltered homeless in Maricopa County rose about 35% from 2020 to this year. 

Maricopa County in the last month has approved over $27 million of American Rescue Plan funding to go toward 758 new affordable housing units. 

Most of the units will be available to those making at or below 60% of the area median income, which for a family of four in the Phoenix area, for example, would be $47,400.

Here are the projects the money is going toward: 

Van Buren Hotel Conversion 

Of this funding, $8 million will be used to convert a hotel on Van Buren Street in central Phoenix into 50 affordable housing units. 

The units in the former hotel will offer on-site case management services for people transitioning out of homelessness. Construction is expected to begin late this year and finish by the summer of 2023. 

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“I appreciate the innovative thinking and partnerships involved in turning an old hotel into a place where people at risk of homelessness can live long-term,” county Chairman Bill Gates said in a press release.  “With creative approaches like this, and the continued commitment and investment of our Board, we can make a significant impact on the affordable housing challenges our community faces.”

New Glendale Units

The county will put $9 million toward new construction projects, including one called Centerline. This project will consist of 368 rental units at the southeast corner of 67th and Glendale avenues. 

 “It’s going to take awhile to get our inventory where it needs to be,” county Vice Chairman Clint Hickman said in the release, “but the addition of nearly 400 new rentals in the heart of Glendale is an example of how we can address our affordable housing shortage one investment and one partnership at a time.” 

New Complex in Phoenix

The other new construction project—called Salt River Flats—will be a 192-unit rental complex near Broadway Road and 14th Street in Phoenix and is expected to open in March 2024. 

Mesa Rental Units

The county will purchase and renovate four rental housing units in Mesa. The units will include two to three bedrooms and be 800 to 1,200 square feet. 

The units will be for “very low-income individuals” who are at or under 60% of the area median income. 

“Low-income persons, whether they are just starting out in a profession or raising a family, or both, should be able to live in a quality home in a safe neighborhood,” Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Galvin said in a press release. “I am confident this partnership will serve as a model for how we can transform current inventory and make it both livable and affordable for residents who find themselves priced out of the existing housing market.”

Senior Housing in Glendale

The county is working with Mercy Housing Mountain Plans to develop a 144-unit rental complex for individuals ages 55 and up. 

The complex on 49th Avenue and W. Glenn Drive will include wraparound services for its residents, as well as a community room, a library, a fitness room, and a plaza with a gardening area. There will be 115 one-bedroom units and 29 two-bedroom units. 

Thirty units will be for seniors exiting homelessness, with a preference for veterans, who make at or below 30% of the area median income. Fifteen units will be for seniors making at or below 50% of the AMI, and 100 units will be for seniors making at or below 60% of the AMI. 

“The growth in the West Valley over the past five years has been simply incredible, and while I’m certainly pro-growth and pro-development, we also need to look after our long-time residents, to make sure they’re provided for,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman  said in a press release.  ”I appreciate that this particular project focuses on providing new, affordable options for the growing number of seniors at risk of homelessness.” 

Growing Need

Maricopa County has been in desperate need for more affordable living situations. 

The annual Maricopa Association of Governments survey showed more than 5,000 people in the county living on the streets when it was conducted this year on Jan. 25. In 2014, that number was 1,053 people.

The number of people experiencing unsheltered homeless in the county rose about 35% from 2020 to this year. 

In general, the Arizona Department of Housing says the state is short 270,000 housing units to keep up with growing demand as the population increases. 

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