When the Fight Against Apartment Construction Reaches City Hall

Fights over housing are a common occurrence that take place at city halls across the country. It is where developers, elected leaders, and residents gather to debate, argue, and sometimes even oppose the construction of...

Fights over housing are a common occurrence that take place at city halls across the country. It is where developers, elected leaders, and residents gather to debate, argue, and sometimes even oppose the construction of new apartment buildings. This is because mayors and city councilmembers have the power to determine how land is used in their cities. As a result, we often see homes next to homes, and shopping centers next to one another. But why do residents have such strong objections to apartment complexes and multifamily residential developments?

The concerns raised by homeowners are typically consistent regardless of the city in question. Traffic, crime rates, and school capacity are among the top concerns. Unfortunately, some residents are not shy about expressing their prejudices, openly stating that they don't want certain groups of people living nearby. This has led to heated debates, angry calls, and even lawsuits against local elected leaders who support these projects.

Developers, on the other hand, start at the local level when building multifamily projects. They search for suitable land, apply for the necessary zoning permits, and ultimately seek approval from the city council. Throughout this process, developers often engage in outreach efforts, reaching out to neighbors who would be directly affected by the development. However, this outreach sometimes sparks opposition, especially when neighbors spread their concerns through word of mouth or public demonstrations.

The challenge faced by elected leaders is that they must balance the desires and concerns of their constituents with the stark reality of Arizona's housing crisis. The state is short 136,000 homes for the poorest renters, and the homeless population has increased by 23% in the past two years. Housing advocates, state lawmakers, and developers have all urged cities to expedite the construction process for apartments and to stand firm against the "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) mentality.

Owen Metz, a senior vice president at Dominium, a national affordable housing developer, emphasizes the importance of political leadership and the will to allow housing to be built. However, state legislators have also taken matters into their own hands, attempting to pass laws that would limit city councils' zoning power. Christian Solorio, a former state lawmaker and architect, believes that residential zoning itself perpetuates inequality, favoring the wealthy residents who have the means to fight against denser housing developments.

In Surprise, councilmember Jack Hastings points out that residents who oppose projects are often the most vocal. However, this does not necessarily mean they represent the majority. Regardless, the strong opposition from residents can sway councilmembers' decisions. In some instances, councilmembers have voted against projects due to significant public opposition.

Transparency and honest communication with residents are seen as key to resolving conflicts. However, newer councilmembers often feel intimidated by unpopular decisions, especially in districted seats where losing support from a small number of voters can have a significant impact on elections. Despite the challenges, the need for more housing options, especially in the affordable range, remains evident.

Yassamin Ansari, a Phoenix councilmember, believes that a dialogue between councilmembers and the public can lead to significant improvements in projects. However, issues regarding a development's design should be separate from biases against the people who will live there. She is pushing for citywide policy changes that would make developing denser buildings easier in key areas like along the light rail.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods has successfully grown the city's affordable housing supply, receiving little opposition. The city adopted a plan that allows developers to contribute to a fund for creating affordable housing, which has been widely supported by developers. Woods believes it is the responsibility of city council leaders to come up with solutions to pressing challenges and stresses the importance of staying the course and doing the right thing.

Adam Baugh, a land use and zoning attorney, consistently encounters organized opposition to projects. He emphasizes the need for councilmembers to have the resolve to stand up for what is right and to make decisions based on complete and accurate information. When developers and neighbors work together, improved buildings can be the result.

Nick Wood, an attorney who often works with apartment developers, believes in finding the right location for a project and being open to compromise. The need for more housing options is only growing, and denying this problem will only make it worse.

In conclusion, the fight against apartment construction is a complex issue that reaches city halls across the country. It is crucial for elected leaders, developers, and residents to engage in open and honest dialogue to find the best solutions. With transparency, understanding, and a shared commitment to addressing the housing crisis, cities can create a more inclusive and equitable future for all residents.

Owen Metz, a senior vice president at Dominium, responds to Chandler residents Owen Metz, a senior vice president at Dominium, responds to Chandler residents.

Rep. Christian Solorio represents Congressional District 30 in Arizona. Rep. Christian Solorio represents Congressional District 30 in Arizona.

Jack Hastings, Surprise City Council Jack Hastings, Surprise City Council.

Yassamin Ansari is the vice mayor of Phoenix, representing District 7. She has served on the Phoenix City Council since 2021. Yassamin Ansari is the vice mayor of Phoenix, representing District 7. She has served on the Phoenix City Council since 2021.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods delivered his 2023 State of the City speech Dec. 8, reflecting on city successes and shortcomings in 2023, big promises made for 2024. Tempe Mayor Corey Woods delivered his 2023 State of the City speech Dec. 8, reflecting on city successes and shortcomings in 2023, big promises made for 2024.

Real-estate lawyer Adam Baugh speaks at a Board of Adjustment meeting in 2028. Real-estate lawyer Adam Baugh speaks at a Board of Adjustment meeting in 2028.

Caption: Owen Metz, a senior vice president at Dominium, responds to Chandler residents

Caption: Rep. Christian Solorio represents Congressional District 30 in Arizona.

Caption: Jack Hastings, Surprise City Council

Caption: Yassamin Ansari is the vice mayor of Phoenix, representing District 7. She has served on the Phoenix City Council since 2021.

Caption: Tempe Mayor Corey Woods delivered his 2023 State of the City speech Dec. 8, reflecting on city successes and shortcomings in 2023, big promises made for 2024.

Caption: Real-estate lawyer Adam Baugh speaks at a Board of Adjustment meeting in 2028.

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