Setting the Eviction Stats Straight

Posted By: Courtney LeVinus AMA Newsroom , State & Local Issues ,

Opinion: Contrary to recent narratives, Arizona has not hit any record levels on evictions. But we do have a housing shortage that must be addressed.

 

Finding solutions to complex problems requires understanding the scope of the challenge ahead. Affordable housing is no different.

While we may disagree about how best to build and fund more housing for families at all income levels, we should at least agree on the basic facts – like how often renters are evicted in Maricopa County and statewide.

Media reports in recent months have cited numerous eviction statistics. The numbers tossed around have been massive, from an Arizona Republic opinion piece which stated "Maricopa County evictions rose 75% from 2017 to 2018” to a much-quoted August KJZZ piece that cited “a 400% increase over the last 10 years” statewide.

The problem with these numbers? They’re wrong.

Eviction rate has been steady since 2008

An analysis of Arizona court statistics shows that the rate of evictions in Maricopa County has remained stable since the Great Recession of 2008.

For every 1,000 rental residents in the county, about 16 – or 1.6% – ended up being evicted in 2018. Counter to the recent narratives, that’s the same eviction rate that existed in 2008.

Interestingly, the number of eviction actions filed in county courts have dropped by nearly 18% between 2008 and 2018. Meanwhile, the county’s renter population jumped by 32% across the same decade.

Most importantly, the eviction rate in Arizona has not increased, and we are far from experiencing record levels of evictions. Those are the facts, and it’s a good thing.

We do have a housing supply problem

As the president of the Arizona Multihousing Association, a trade organization with membership that ranges from owners of a single rental home to the state’s largest rental apartment property owners, I understand well that each eviction represents a uniquely difficult moment for both renters and property owners.

For renters, evictions may create pain and inconvenience. For property owners, the cost of eviction and re-renting an apartment home sabotages their bottom line. Our organization and partners are working to address one of the underlying causes to evictions and to attack the undersupply of housing that represents the crux of the problem.

How undersupplied is the Valley rental market? According to a study by the National Apartment Association, metropolitan Phoenix would need to build 11,000 units a year for the next decade to meet the rising demand created by being the nation’s fastest-growing county.

Every day, 200 new residents move to Maricopa County. Because we are nowhere near building at such a furious pace, rents continue to rise. That’s the law of supply and demand at work.

Easing restrictions to build would help

Building more housing for low-income families will require innovation and collaboration between the private and public sectors.

Locally, elected officials must work with developers to remove the onerous bureaucratic restrictions that drive the cost of housing higher. Overly restrictive zoning, cost-intense design guidelines and discretionary review processes that allow arms of local government to add costly fits and finishes to projects all contribute to making housing construction more expensive.

Inevitably, higher costs mean higher rents – or less investment from developers who choose to take their limited resources elsewhere.

At the state level, momentum has begun to build to piggyback on a federal program known as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, or LIHTC.

Signed by President Reagan, expanded by Democratic presidents and continued by President Trump, federal LIHTC has supported the construction or renovation of about 2 million housing units nationally. Already, 16 states have created their own LIHTC program to speed up the construction of affordable housing. In Colorado, the state LIHTC program has helped created about 5,000 such units since 2015.

Each new unit in Arizona represents a boost to the state economy and our pivotal construction industry. More importantly, the family living in each new unit will be better able to afford their home.

No matter what the statistics say, we should all be able to agree that Arizona’s families deserve our very best effort when it comes to meeting such a critical challenge.

The original article was featured and published in the Arizona Republic Opinion column.  You can view it here: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2020/01/13/evictions-mean-need-more-affordable-housing-arizona/4433910002/