By: Jordan Ulloa
Arizona is growing at a rate unlike many other states in the rest of the country. Five of the fifteen fastest growing cities in the US reside in Arizona, with census data showing that Queen Creek, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Maricopa and Goodyear had all grown at rates ranging from 5.4% to 8.9% between July 2020 and July 2021. Phoenix grew at the fastest rate among America’s biggest cities between 2010 and 2020, at a rate of 11.2%. Coupling the population growth with a shortage in housing to accommodate led to an explosion in housing prices and rental costs. Home prices increased 33% in one year, rent increased 30%, with another 20% forecasted for 2022. This leaves people in marginalized communities and those living in poverty in greater states of economic insecurity due to the wide range of barriers they face in housing policy.
Arizona is in a precarious position as the legislature has banned the use of rent control ordinances at the state level, meaning local control over housing policy is not left to those it affects but to politicians in Phoenix. State Senator Martin Quezada, serving District 29, tried to address the problem with the introduction of SB 1587, which never got a hearing. The bill would have capped rent increases throughout the state at a maximum of 10%. As it stands, Arizona still allows landlords to increase rent at their leisure and has no requirement for builders to include low-income housing in new housing projects.
Meanwhile, eviction filings hit a 13-year high of 6,405 in July 2022; the last time these statistics were this elevated was during the Great Recession and housing crisis in 2008. This is largely due to the fact that Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, saw rents increase 80% between 2016 and 2021 with wages only increasing a middling 22% during the same five years. In Phoenix alone, the area with the greatest growth, 46% of households are classified by HUD as being extremely low to low income with another 19% being low to moderate income—a staggering 65% of households.
What does this type of unsustainable housing environment do for marginalized communities and those living in poverty? To begin, it causes housing insecurity. According to recent data from the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care and Racial Equity Partners, in Maricopa County African Americans experience homelessness at a rate 3.9 times greater than their share of the general population; Native Americans proportion of the homeless population is more than twice its share of the general population; and racial discrimination in housing and criminal justice drives high rates of homelessness among people of color. Unfortunately, the courts do not keep data on racial or ethnic background for those who are evicted, making any determination about the impact of eviction on communities of color difficult. But overlaying census data with information that is available on evictions shows that in neighborhoods with larger minority populations and larger proportions of poverty, evictions have been increasing.
Arizona has no “just cause” ordinances that prohibit landlords from arbitrarily ending rental agreements with tenants. While the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act provides rules to regulate rental agreements, no agencies enforce the provisions. In addition, 99% of eviction proceedings are decided in favor of landlords, with less than 1% of tenants obtaining legal representation while landlords retain lawyers 88% of the time. This disparity was highlighted by an investigation by Arizona Republic that found 900 evictions filed against Maricopa County tenants who likely should have been protected by the federal CARES Act. The same study found that landlords filed to evict Phoenix area tenants nearly 400,000 times from 2015-2021. Eviction is a swift process in Arizona, landlords need to give just a 5-day notice and can do so as early as the day after rent is due, if rent is not paid within those five days, then the landlord can file for eviction. Even if back rent is paid after a landlord filing, the fact of the filing will still show up on renter’s records and affect credit scores—making it harder to rent elsewhere.
Arizona can and should do more to protect its citizens, especially those in poverty and members of marginalized communities. While the state finds itself in the middle of an economic boom with growing opportunities, policies should be constructed that protect citizens from being priced out of their own communities. Considering much of the damage being done to renter’s and marginalized populations can be traced back to policy decisions, it stands to reason that lawmakers can right the ship by crafting policy that considers the myriad of ways renters, especially those in poverty and in marginalized communities, can obtain housing security and contribute to the growing economic position of the state. We should be lifting Arizonans up, and that means all of them. We can do so by, at the very least, ensuring our elected leaders give solutions a proper debate and committee assignment.
Jordan graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Psychology, and obtained his M.A. in Politics from Claremont Graduate University. Jordan is a 2L with an interest in voting rights, election law, and civil rights. He is interested in the intersection of politics, the law, and how those two institutions affect issues pertaining to social justice in a myriad of ways. After graduating and passing the bar exam, Jordan is interested in working to advance access to the ballot box in marginalized communities as well as increasing awareness of individuals rights when it comes to voting. In his free time, Jordan likes to go to football, baseball and basketball games… go Lakers.