By Larry Kush
Today, I needed to drop off a document at the state land department on West Adams in Phoenix located just a block East of the Arizona State Capitol. This neighborhood has become the settlement area of a major portion of Arizona’s Homeless population. Lining most of the cross streets in the area are countless tents housing individuals and families alike, which serve as their primary shelter in the cold winter or our sweltering summer. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and there is certainly a great deal of treasure surrounding these tents.
Any feeling human has to be distressed by the site of these poor souls forced to live on the streets. I for one feel both sad and angry at the sight. A former builder of homes I feel a certain passion about the subject of a house. Having, in my career, built thousands of new homes, I believe that a decent place to live is a fundamental human right. Therefore, I have been a lifelong advocate for the housing industry knowing firsthand just how hard it is to suffer the process of taking a raw piece of land and putting homes on that land.
The famous comedian George Carlin once did a bit on the subject of homelessness and said that the use of the term “homeless” is incorrect as a “home” is an esoteric thing. He said, what they are is “houseless”. What he said is we need more houses and he was right. The problem is no matter what the need, and the more something is needed, the harder it becomes to fill that need. Think about it. Unless we produce enough to fill a need the more expensive the needed item becomes. By example, think about the $5 you now pay for a gallon of gasoline. Need? Yes; Supply? Restricted ; Price? Higher. The same holds true for housing. We are suffering a housing shortage that has for the most part been brought on by ever increasing, severe city zoning restrictions and bureaucracy.
There is no shortage of land, builders or materials to build homes. However, builders cannot build when they are constantly blocked by city councils listening only to the NIMBY (not in our back yard) hateful voices who show up at nearly every approval session spewing their veiled racism about not wanting “those people” in their neighborhood. Showing little or no back bone, these council members bow to their wishes knowing that opposition will only lead to their not being re-elected.
These elected officials cannot understand or even realize that just like the “Butterfly Effect” which states there is what is called a deterministic nonlinear system in which a butterfly in Africa flapping it’s wings leads to an eventual hurricane elsewhere. So does their refusal to approve a needed apartment building cause a “Butterfly Effect” insuring houselessness down the line.
Scottsdale’s city council is the poster child for this impact. Our council is notorious, statewide, for their denial of needed housing recently going so far as to deny needed housing for nurses and technicians working at the Shea Medical center. The only real opposition to the project was from NIMBY’s opposed to the use. Fearful of re-election, they voted against the planned use.
Councilmembers Whitehead; Littlefield; Graham and Mayor Ortega are the most outspoken apartment opponents. Perhaps they should pay a visit to the Adams area to see the end result of their negligence.
Larry Kush is a 50 year Scottsdale resident; former Scottsdale planning commissioner and lifelong housing advocate