When It Comes To Workforce Housing One Mayor Is Leading the Way While Another Is Getting In The Way

By Shea Lincoln

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods has made attainable housing in his city a priority. His recent editorial on Az Central makes a compelling case for workforce housing as well as Tempe’s efforts to make it happen such as setting aside 50% of some development fees for use by a nonprofit corporation affiliated with Tempe Public Housing Authority. It’s part of the Hometown for All initiative which was approved unanimously by the Tempe City Council in January.

Here is a link to the editorial.

It’s a very different story north of Tempe where Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega has ignored the laws of supply and demand and opposed two worthy multifamily projects that would help those who work in Scottsdale live in Scottsdale.

The Miller, a 148-unit apartment complex on Miller between Camelback and Indian School was recently approved by the Scottsdale City Council. Mayor Ortega cast the only no vote even though the developer agreed to dedicate eight units as “workforce housing,” without any tax breaks for the lost revenue.

Additionally, Ortega apparently opposes the 92 Ironwood redevelopment project near Honor Health North Scottsdale which would replace an abandoned and run-down office building with much needed housing for healthcare professionals at the hospital and the countless medical facilities in the area.

The Arizona Nurses Association and local businesses have endorsed the project. In fact, there is no local neighborhood opposition. The only opposition is coming from residents who live miles away who don’t want apartments of any kind in North Scottsdale.

The numbers speak for themselves. The Scottsdale Progress recently quoted Scottsdale Community Assistance Manager Irma Hollamby as saying 83% of Scottsdale workers live elsewhere.

Here is a link to that article.

Apartments are in short supply in North Scottsdale and the local economy is demanding them. There hasn’t been a new apartment complex approved in the area around 92nd and Shea for more than 20 years.

This makes it harder for restaurants and retail to attract new customers and more difficult for employers to recruit workers. As the labor market gets more competitive, especially in the healthcare field, the last thing Scottsdale needs are medical facilities with insufficient staffing. Scottsdale may be a great place to work, but would you want to work in a place you can’t afford, in a community that says renters are not welcomed?

Mayor Ortega listens when community activists speak. That’s commendable. Longtime City Hall ‘watchdogs’ can play an important role in preserving the look and feel of the city. But some of those watchdogs and Mayor Ortega may be missing the big picture. Without workforce housing, the shops, restaurants, and medical facilities that make Scottsdale a great place to live might start disappearing.

Imagine a Scottsdale without enough nurses, police officers, fire fighters, or teachers. Imagine a North Scottsdale littered with empty buildings and abandoned businesses. It may be inevitable if Mayor Ortega continues to make the housing shortage worse by ignoring the laws of supply and demand.

Ortega surely has Mayor Woods’ phone number. It’s time to use it.