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Arizona Senate Kills Expansive Zoning Deregulation Plan

By March 14, 2023No Comments

By Camryn Sanchez | Arizona Capitol Times

The Senate killed a bill with some bipartisan opposition– and a hint of bipartisan support– on (March 13) that would have drastically cut down on zoning restrictions statewide in the sponsor’s hopes of increasing Arizona’s affordable housing supply.

Sen. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, sponsored the controversial bill that would make several significant changes to housing law statewide, including putting shot clocks on development proposal review, cutting parking requirements and protecting accessory dwelling units. He said the bill will come back somehow this session.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if your starter home, you could get a starter home for 150,000 bucks or 200,000 bucks?” Kaiser told the chamber. “And you could start building equity and move up to that next bigger home and go from there? That’s the American Dream that we’re robbing from so many young people right there. And then we’re trapping middle aged people in their homes, and then we are making our seniors homeless because they have no choice but to get forced out.”

According to the Arizona housing groups, the state needs 270,000 new homes and Arizona’s rents are more than 15% above the national average.

The final vote on Senate Bill 1117 was 9-20 with one not present. Kaiser changed his “yes” vote to a “no” at the end to get the bill reconsidered after a lengthy debate.

There was a vote “waterfall” at the end of the discussion, when it became clear the measure would fail, several members clicked “no” on the bill.

“I think what you saw at the end there was a lot of folks who were waiting to see how things were going to fall, and I think that it shows that there’s still a lot of education that can still be done, but that there’s a lot of openness to the concept itself. When this was done in other states it took a few tries,” said Creosote lobbyist and bill supporter Gaelle Esposito.

That’s not surprising seeing as 13 members said they were undecided on the bill or prepared to change their minds, as of March 3.

Sen. Brian Fernandez, D-Yuma, is one of the last-minute “no” votes; he confirmed he was “undecided until the last second” and is ambivalent on the bill.

The bill is opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and virtually every municipality, including Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa as it would preempt cities from blocking housing projects in many cases. It’s a significant force, as members don’t like to go against the wishes of the municipalities in their districts.

The bill has a jumbled coalition of bipartisan supporters, including the Goldwater Institute, Chicanos Por La Causa and various housing groups, including the Arizona Association of Realtors and The Arizona Multihousing Association.

Kaiser’s bill is the result of more than a year of work and was first introduced in a different form last session as House Bill 2674 which didn’t have enough support and was transformed into a Housing Supply Study Committee, which Kaiser chaired in the interim between sessions.

The committee met 12 times and was composed of stakeholders in real estate, municipal leaders, legislators, homeless mitigation activists and others in the housing field. The committee listened to testimony from more than 70 speakers and finally prepared its recommendations for legislation on housing. Kaiser put zoning reform at the top of his priorities and got to work on 1117, which was very similar to last year’s bill.

This year’s bill has gone through several cuts already and will be amended again before it gets resurrected.

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Related: Arizona Housing Supply Study Committee Recommends Zoning Law Changes