By: Julia Weiss

Residents of Arizona, specifically of its most-populous county and capital city, have seen record high numbers of eviction rates as well as in the homeless population. Arizonans have also seen a drastic increase in population. Despite this, Arizona has a persisting problem of an overall lack of housing. This, combined with a record-low number of bankruptcies in the state means that the new and increasing population has nowhere to be housed. Apartment costs only compound this set of issues as Arizona’s landlord-friendly laws are maintained. All of these obstacles work in tandem to create Arizona’s monstrous affordable-housing crisis. Low-income communities in Arizona are suffering with no affordable housing reprieve in sight. This blog is an accounting of some of the issues affecting the affordable housing crisis in Arizona.


Across all accounts, Arizona is growing. After all, Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States, bigger than both San Diego and Dallas. Arizona’s population is approximately seven million people, with an average increase of nearly 100,000 people each year for the better half of the last decade. Maricopa County, the largest county in Arizona, “is home to 4.1 million of the state’s 6.9 million people,” constituting over 60% of Arizona’s population. This county, as is discussed below, also contains over 9,000 homeless people[LG3] , more than half of whom are unsheltered.

Lack of Housing & Arizona Laws

There is presently a national shortage of about 6.8 million affordable rental homes for extremely-low income renters. In Arizona, there is a shortage of about 270,000 housing units. Despite the Arizona Department of Housing’s (“ADOH”) efforts, it recognizes that the need for affordable housing “far exceeds” the number of people the state has resources to help.

More than $7 million was provided by ADOH through both state and federal funds in 2022. This may sound like a lot; approximately $1 for every person in Arizona. Unfortunately, it is very little in relation to how much is needed. Federal and State provided aid for housing is extremely scarce and difficult to navigate. For example, the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher program has thousands of people on the waitlist to receive a housing voucher in Phoenix even though it stopped accepting people onto the waitlist in 2016. Even if one of these highly sought-after vouchers was acquired, voucher-holders are still repeatedly turned away from complexes by the landlords, who complain of payment delays. Phoenix is hoping to reopen the waitlist sometime in 2023.

Additionally, Arizona laws contain notoriously landlord-favoring statutes. One example of this is that Arizona does not provide rent-control to residents. This means that Arizona landlords may increase the rent as much as they wish from year to year, and they do. Rent is increasing nationally, at about 11% in 2022, but since 2020, it has increased by 32.3% in Phoenix, Arizona.

Arizona is also one of only seven states that prohibit mandatory inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning allows or requires developers to create a certain amount of affordable units in a new housing project. This remains true while many Arizona municipalities zone “about half of their land for single-family homes.” Single-family homes, of course, are the antithesis of what is needed to solve the affordable housing shortage. Single-family zoning is a form of exclusionary housing policy since single-family homes are too expensive for low-income families, and cannot possibly house the growing number of low-income Arizonans. Moreover, Arizona is the only state to disallow tax increment financing, which encourages development in underdeveloped areas.

The Arizona Department of Housing is working to remedy the issue through government assistance and developing housing units, but in a manner that even it acknowledges only works as a bandage covering a bullet wound.

Rent Increases

An aggravating factor to the lack of affordable housing, possibly caused by the population increase, is the rising cost of rentals in Arizona. In Phoenix particularly, rents have “soared a record of 30%.” Increases in rental prices are causing renters to become informally evicted, pushing renters out of their homes, unable to afford their rent. Due to the population increase, Phoenix is drawing the attention of investment towards luxury complexes, not much-needed affordable complexes.


If the lack of affordable housing amid rent-increases was not enough, Arizona is also facing a historic number of evictions. Arizona eviction filings were already at a high before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but have since continued climbing, with even more Arizonans expecting eviction notices in the next couple months. In July of 2022, Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, hit more evictions in a month than it has since October 2008.

When it comes to evictions, Arizona law again tends to favor landlords. In Arizona, a landlord may file for eviction as soon as five days after a tenant’s missed rental payment. Landlords may also file multiple evictions against the same tenant. This in turn affects the tenant’s credit score and ability to find another rental.

That’s not to mention the unequal footing in court that unrepresented tenants have against attorney-represented landlords. Unrepresented tenants make up the majority of tenants in eviction claims. To exacerbate the issue, eviction judgments are up 70% since 2019. The rulings are becoming even more costly to tenants who missed payments.

Despite the rise in evictions, bankruptcy filings have been falling in Arizona. Arizona bankruptcy filings have shrunk 68.4% in the last decade. This contributes to the lack of housing availability altogether since home-owners are staying in their homes or the homes are being bought by some of Arizona’s incoming population. Meaning that those who are evicted or are low-income individuals will further have a barrier to finding housing. Arizona is growing: in evictions, in people, in a lack of housing.


 According to the National Homeless Law Center, the number one reason for homelessness is a lack of affordable housing. In 2021, Arizona’s poverty rate was 12.8%, a number expected to rise to 13.42% by 2023. It is notable that while these numbers are not good, Arizona is not among the states experiencing the worst homeless problems.

The problem here is more likely that Arizona’s homeless population is disproportionately in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county which encompasses “nine of the state’s ten largest cities.” In 2020, more than half of Maricopa County’s homeless population were left unsheltered. Unsheltered in this context means those on the streets or “some other habitation unfit for humans,” whereas sheltered means those in emergency housing or programs. Without an adequate water supply or cooling system in heat above 110 degrees fahrenheit, this is causing deaths among Arizona’s growing homeless population.


All in all, Arizona’s lack of affordable housing to provide for its increasing population, homeless and otherwise, is coming to a peak. This is amid a mounting number of evictions and rent increases, making it a full-circle dilemma that has been years in the making. It will likely take years of corrective action to fix.

Julia graduated from the University at Albany in New York with a B.A. in English, and double minors in political science and education. She is currently a 2L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Her legal interests broadly encompass business law. Her personal interests include cooking, baking, and hiking.