Councilmembers at Odds Over New Apartment Development

By Jessica Perez

It comes as no shock that Arizona’s house prices and rents have escalated significantly over the past few years, making the need for affordable housing more apparent than ever. Devco Residential Group is striving to address this need by introducing a multifamily residential complex in West Phoenix with 112 apartments falling under the low-income housing tax credit program. As they pursue city approval, Phoenix council members struggled to balance the wants of their constituents with the need for affordable housing during last week’s city council meeting.

Although this new development sounds ideal, constituents who would live near these apartments were strongly against its development as they feared a rise in crime and road congestion. Councilwoman Betty Guardado from District 5 was opposed despite her progressive views. She understood the need for affordable housing but could not approve of Devco’s plan without the support of those she represents. District 4 councilwoman Laura Pastor and Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari chose to side with their colleague during their vote as they believed Guardado knew what was best for her district.

These sentiments were not shared with city council members Ann O’Brien (District 1), Debra Stark (District 3) and Kevin Robinson (District 6) as they were strong opponents of Guardado’s justification for voting against a new affordable housing development. They made clear that the housing crisis in our cities is an issue that they believe their colleagues should not shy away from despite constituent’s disapproval.

Their pushback seemed to create strong tensions as Councilwoman Guardado noted that she believed councilmembers had set up a good dialogue when it came to respecting each other’s decisions for their districts. Yet the approval for Devco’s apartment development in District 5 was passed with a vote of 5 in favor and 4 against, demonstrating that other district representatives can have a dramatic impact on districts other than their own.

As more people struggle to find affordable housing, apartments like Devco’s development have the potential to alleviate some strain. While many struggle to accept new neighbors, our increasing population demands growth within the housing market that is affordable and attainable to people of all levels of income. Tough decisions must be made to tackle issues within our city. We hope to see new affordable housing developments approved in the future especially by councilmembers O’Brien, Stark, and Robinson in their own districts too, just as they passionately fought to pass affordable housing developments in a district other than their own.