You’ve heard the stories, or maybe you’re living one of them.
Like the single mother hit by an $800 rent hike – a stunning 50% increase in what she pays to house her family in a former three-bedroom apartment in downtown Scottsdale.
“It will take almost 100% of my income, and my father (age 82) is on a fixed income,” Kathleen Black told Catherine Reagor of The Arizona Republic. “Our apartment is not very nice.”
The Black family is not alone. Residents across the valley are being stung with some of the biggest rent increases in the country, with no relief in sight.
Reagor reports that rents in the Phoenix area rose nearly 30% last year, more than double the US average. They are expected to climb another 20% this year or possibly more, given the competition for apartments.
The immutable laws of supply and demand land people on the street or on a friend’s couch — or in another state, because the cost of living here exceeds the size of paychecks by far too much. of Arizonans.
Given the problem, well, you can imagine what the Arizona legislature is doing.
That’s right, absolutely nothing.
Apparently electoral “reform” is more important?
Our leaders have spent what seems like a lifetime obsessing over the 2020 election and the many “reforms” needed to eliminate all of this rampant voter fraud that they can’t seem to find.
They’re working on bills to train sixth graders in gun safety and protect seniors from apparently pornographic books like “The Great Gatsby” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
They are working on bills to put a curfew on fireworks and to dictate where you can stand if you want to film the police.
And now, thanks to the efforts of our leaders, dentists will be able to apply Botox.
But a bill to deal with the crisis affecting thousands and thousands of valley residents, rank-and-file workers who are the backbone of our community?
People who, no doubt, lie awake at night wondering what they’re going to do and where they can go?
Cue: silence at the Capitol.
There are bills to help. They’re not going anywhere
Oh, there are a few bills that might bring some relief.
Senate Bill 1587, for example, would rein in landlords who absolutely cheat their tenants with insanely high rent increases, just because they can.
But this bill, like the others, has not been evaluated at a single hearing this year. The Legislature, after all, is run by Republicans, given their one-vote majority in each chamber, and these bills were sponsored by Democrats.
“I personally think they’re so wrapped up in issues like the election, the PC (precinct committee) situation and the repeal/replacement of (Governor Doug) Ducey’s tax cut that they don’t don’t have the energy or the desire to fix this problem,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, told me.
“Their base has been more engrossed in election issues and they are continually distracted by that. And the only ones who have introduced bills to fix it (skyrocketing rents) are the Democrats and they are not interested in doing us any favors.
Where else are tenants supposed to go?
Sen. JD Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he didn’t hear Quezada’s bill because rent control doesn’t solve the underlying problem, the shortage of affordable housing.
“I don’t know of any examples where price controls — including rent or otherwise — solve a supply problem,” he told me. “It just disrupts the market and causes a domino effect of other issues (i.e. an owner has their own challenges – costs, inflation, etc. – that they have to worry about and you remove its ability to charge market rates).
So the answer is to do nothing?
Quezada’s bill proposes capping rent increases at 5% plus the cost of inflation or 10% per year, whichever is lower.
I can almost hear some of our legislators – those who are also owners – crumble into a swoon.
They will say that capping rents will lead to fewer apartments being built. Never mind the fact that most of the apartments being built are luxury accommodation, well outside the price range of the policemen, construction workers and teachers who are the backbone of the community.
They will say that landlords should have the right to charge whatever they want and that tenants can move elsewhere if they don’t like it. It doesn’t matter that there is no “elsewhere” in a market with a vacancy rate of only 3%.
If nothing else, at least hold a hearing
I don’t know if the answer is Quezada’s rent control proposal or maybe an anti-gouging law, much like the law that caps interest rates in places that offer auto title loans and the like .
I don’t know if in the longer term the answer is to offer more tax credits to renters or builders of affordable apartments (as opposed to the bill the Senate recently passed offering $150 million tax credits for Hollywood to make movies here.)
What I do know is that the Republicans who control the Capitol would not even hold a hearing to brainstorm ideas on what can and should be done.
To help people like Erin Smith de Gibert, an orthodontic treatment coordinator who was recently stunned to learn that the rent for her two-bedroom apartment has jumped 54%, or $600 more per month.
“I’m a single mom with a good job who’s about to lose her house,” she told Reagor. “I watch my friends and loved ones here about to lose their homes too.”
It’s sad, of course.
But hey, thanks to our leaders, at least now they can get Botox when they go to get their teeth cleaned.
Contact Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.
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