two construction workers working on roof frames Arizona Housing
FILE —Construction roofers work on roof frames at a new housing development on Friday, April 6, 2007, in Phoenix. Arizona's housing crisis is the focus of new bipartisan legislation announced Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, that aims to increase the state's supply of low income housing units and set aside $89 million to combat homelessness. State Representatives Steve Kaiser, a Republican and Cesar Chavez, a Democrat said their proposed law would improve housing availability and affordability in every part of Arizona. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s housing crisis is the focus of new bipartisan legislation announced Wednesday that aims to increase the supply of low income units and set aside $89 million to combat homelessness. 

State Representatives Steve Kaiser, a Republican, and César Chávez, a Democrat, said their proposed law would improve housing availability and affordability across Arizona. 

The Phoenix-based lawmakers said their measure would address the state’s housing shortfall and rising housing costs that have become burdensome for many Arizona residents. 

“We need a statewide response to this crisis,” said Kaiser, the lead sponsor. “The demand for housing has never been higher. Occupancy rates are at 98%, which is a 40-year high.”

“For every one rental home in metro Phoenix there are 20 people applying,” he added. 

Kaiser said it is estimated that 270,000 additional housing units need to be constructed in Arizona to keep up with demand. He said the legislation would help clear the way for faster building by eliminating onerous zoning and permit requirements imposed by local jurisdictions. 

The bill would also allocate $89 million from Arizona’s state general fund in fiscal year 2022-2023 to the Housing Trust Fund to create more housing for the state’s growing homeless population. 

Rents in Phoenix surged nearly 28% in the last year, according to the data research firm Apartment List. The firm reported that median rents in Phoenix last month stood at $1,217 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,486 for a two-bedroom.

Eviction filings against renters struggling to pay those prices in Arizona’s largest county are on the upswing after a lull during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Maricopa County Justice Courts on Tuesday released preliminary data showing filings last month reached their highest level in almost two years. 

January was the first time since February 2020 that more than 5,000 eviction filings had been recorded in one month in Maricopa County, which is home to Phoenix and handles the bulk of evictions statewide. 

The filings have slowly crept up since August, when an eviction moratorium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expired. The temporary ban was imposed to protect tenants struggling to pay rent amid the pandemic’s economic disruption. 

Emergency rental assistance funds from the federal government have been credited with preventing a tsunami of evictions since the ban ended.

Maricopa County announced Wednesday it has received $39 million more in federal funds to help renters facing eviction because of non-payment or utility shutoffs.

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