Arizona can build more affordable housing and conserve water. Here's how

Opinion: Arizona has legislation that would increase housing affordability while protecting valuable water resources.


Due to supply shortages, average Arizona workers cannot currently afford to purchase homes.

Arizona is quickly becoming one of the least affordable places in the country to buy a home and is currently in crisis when it comes to housing affordability. Approximately 8,000 people move to our state each month, yet housing supply has remained essentially the same.

Meanwhile, prices continue to rise, putting the prospect of owning a home out of reach for anyone making less than $120,000. To keep up with demand, economists say Arizona needs between 40,000 and 50,000 new homes.

But current water policies prevent new homes from being built in the most affordable markets.

Arizona needs more affordable housing

Until recently, Buckeye was one of the last places where new homes could be purchased for less than $400,000. Unfortunately, current law no longer allows new homes to be built in Buckeye.

Only by bringing a significant number of new and affordable homes to the market can we ensure that our children, grandchildren, teachers, veterans and top talent, including young professionals, can afford to remain in this great condition.

Without sensible short-term solutions to Arizona's water law, such as those proposed by Republican lawmakers, Arizonans will face an environment in which the opportunity to build financial equity through homeownership will be out of reach.

Some may agree with this outcome, but Republican lawmakers do not.

Leaders must pursue sensible water policies that protect the aquifer and promote economic growth, while supporting housing affordability and the American way of life. These can be achieved if we take these goals into account when deciding on immediate solutions.

Bills would save water and increase living space

This year, Arizona Republicans introduced legislation to conserve groundwater and increase housing supply in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

One bill, Senate Bill 1172, would allow developers to decommission old, water-intensive agricultural land outside cities and replace that land with new, less water-intensive single-family housing.

Another, House Bill 2589, would allow developers to move forward with proposed projects if they are willing to accept a 15% reduction in future pumping needs.

According to experts at the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, these proposed laws could save over 320,000 acre-feet of groundwater annually and 32 million acre-feet of groundwater over 100 years.

Both bills would result in a net decrease in future groundwater production and increase future housing supply, representing a significant “win-win” for Arizona's housing and water policy, helping to reduce the rising cost of housing while preserving groundwater for future generations to save.

Other water bills that make their way through the system and address critical housing needs will hopefully make their way to the governor's desk and be signed.

The governor must support these win-win situations

New housing developments are fundamentally self-sustaining.

Under current law, residential subdivisions are the only land uses outside municipal service areas that are required to replenish their groundwater use. All other types of land use can be pumped at will without refilling, even if they use significantly more water per hectare than residential developments.

This has made the groundwater situation in the Phoenix metropolitan area even more difficult.

The law forces us to build: Only the most expensive houses

If the construction of new housing developments outside of existing service providers is prohibited, this forces developers to use the land for other purposes that do not allow for regeneration. It also leads to a rush for land in existing cities where land is more expensive, driving up property prices rapidly.

Both scenarios are undesirable and contradict good water and housing policy, which must take into account the affordability and availability of future supplies as well as future water security.

Arizona must have a strong economy and affordable housing supply while also addressing groundwater safety and challenges.

Common-sense groundwater policies like those proposed by Republicans will save billions of gallons of water for future generations and reduce price pressures on new homes by allowing an increase in housing supply in this state.

This supports affordable housing in Arizona and the economy.

If the Governor signs these bills into law, it will help increase housing affordability while protecting Arizona's precious water resources, making it a win-win for everyone.

Rep. Gail Griffin, a Republican who represents Legislative District 19, is chairwoman of the House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee. Senator Sine Kerr, a Republican who represents LD 25, serves as chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee. The two are co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Ad Hoc Study Committee on Water Security. You can reach her at [email protected] and [email protected].

Anna Harden

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