The change that is happsoldening in Phoenix is apparent as you drive through South Phoenix.  Among the streets of the old neighborhoods new homes are being sporadically placed where empty lots had once been, as well as entire subdivisions of new home developments, just as you might find throughout the rest of the Valley.  These new tract homes are placed in a very systematic order up and down the streets.  They are all painted the typical “neutral Arizona colors”, and although the layout may vary 80housesslightly they basically look exactly alike.  They are no doubt beautiful and nice homes.  What makes these homes even more attractive are the mountains nearby as well as the convenience of downtown Phoenix.  But according to some, the most attractive part about these homes is their affordability.  Our class was able to meet with one of the city planners, Allan Stephenson.  He explained to us that their goal was to bring new homes into South Phoenix, creating nicer upscale areas that would help relieve and eliminate South Phoenix of the “ghetto” stereotype it has long been labeled whouseith.  In order to attract people to this area they are making these homes "very affordable”, Stephenson explained to us.       

        Wanting to understand what Stephenson meant by affordable, we drove to the nearby KB model homes to find out for ourselves.  There we found that homes ranged in size from 1300 square feet to 3971 square feet.  The prices were from $146,000 to nearly $250,000.  Apparently some are a little more “affordable” than others, depending on the situation you are in.

            Now let us move forward a week and talk about Manuel T. Gonzalez, Director of the Housing Departmenmannygonzalez_phxhousi-015ft for the City of Phoenix.  Mr. Gonzalez also spoke with us about affordable housing, however he had a slightly different definition of affordable housing than what we had just learned from Mr. Stephenson.

            The Housing Department’s mission is to “provide and promote diversified quality housing for low-income families, seniors and persons with disabilities by subsidizing, developing and managing assisted and affordable housing.”  In order to do this they offer public housing as well as home ownership programs, programs where rent is based on thirty percent of adjusted annual income, utility allowances, and homeownership opportunities to low-income families.  They also fund low-interest rate loans to non-profit and profit developers for the construction and acquisition of multi-family rental housing, low-interest loans to first time buyers and forgivable loans.  Most rent is about $125 to $250 below the market and most of the residents have incomes that are prifoothillsa-002fmarily 40 to 60 percent of the median.  The City Housing Department contracts out the building of apartments, requiring that once completed a certain portion of the units must be allocated for those earning below the mean income.  In addition to providing housing, many of the public housing and other facilities have nice parks and areas for the children to play.  They have community and activity centers set up as safe havens and learning sites for the children.

            Our class was able to visit one of the public housing facilities, Foothills Village, and see for ourselves how this program works.  These housing facilities may not have been the brand new, luxurious, spacious homes like those found down the road, but they foothillsa-003fwere livable and they allowed someone the opportunity to call a place a home. foothillsa-010f
            These “affordable” housing areas, the City Planner’s new tract home developments and the Housing Department for the City of Phoenix, are only minutes apart yet it is apparent that there is a vast difference between the two.  It does not seem possible that they could both carry the definition of affordability.  So which one is it?  It is interesting to me to see the different perspectives that people have.  What one calls affordable is completely opposite to what the other one thinks it means.  As one walks up and down the streets of South Phoenix it is clear that Stephenson’s definition of “affordable” is out of context.  If he truly understood the area and the situation of South Phoenix maybe he too would bring affordable housing to the people as Manuel Gonzalez is doing.


Read what fellow classmates wrote about affordable housing:
Debra Jenkins..\Jenkins\project4.htm


Learn more from the planners themselves:
south phoenix village
planning department
housing department

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                                             LESLIE SHORT