Category Archives: Affordable Housing

How We Rebuild Neighborhoods After Foreclosures Explored by @ThePublicSquare

Zócalo Public Square foreclosure event PhoenixWhile the foreclosure crisis is starting to ease across Arizona and the country, neighborhoods still must reckon with the damage.

In what looks to be a great program, Zócalo Public Square and Arizona State University host an event on Monday, February 11, at the Heard Museum. The 6:30 pm event brings together a talented panel:

  • Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis economist William R. Emmons
  • Arizona State University geographer Deirdre Pfeiffer
  • Mortgage Resolution Partners CEO Graham Williams

The moderator will be Fernanda Santos, Phoenix Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

More information is here.

Zocalo Public Square February 11 event Foreclosures LOGO

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Senior Housing Development near Downtown Phoenix Wins National Award

[Source: City of Phoenix Press Release]

Source: Orcutt Winslow

The city of Phoenix Housing Department will receive a national award for the McCarty on Monroe senior housing development, adding to two state awards and one local award previously received this year.

The 2010 Award of Excellence for McCarty on Monroe comes from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) and will be officially announced on Nov. 2 at NAHRO’s National Conference and Exhibition in Reno, Nev. The city’s Housing Department is one of 23 programs nationwide to receive the 2010 award, which recognizes outstanding innovation and achievement in housing and community development programs throughout the country.

“McCarty on Monroe combines serving seniors, honoring history, green design and building, linking to light rail and creating jobs,” said District 8 Councilman Michael Johnson.

“It is a great development for our central city.”

In August, the Arizona Chapter of NAHRO selected McCarty on Monroe as the Housing Innovation Program of the Year for 2010. In September, the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) recognized McCarty on Monroe with the 2010 Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award for Exemplary Multifamily Project. ADOH commended “a unique opportunity to preserve existing public housing assistance, add new public housing units to the city’s elderly housing inventory, provide additional low-income tax credit units and provide seniors with low incomes the access to affordable housing units with immediate light-rail train access.”

At the 30th annual Environmental Excellence Awards program in October, the Valley Forward Association honored McCarty on Monroe with an Award of Merit for Livable Communities. Designed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Standard, the housing complex includes 100 percent fluorescent fixtures, flooring and carpet made from recycled rubber, interior finishes that are low- or no-VOC, 154 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and water-saving, desert landscaping.

Source: Orcutt Winslow

Located at 1130 E. Monroe St. (map), McCarty on Monroe is a senior housing complex that opened in October 2009. Previously, the 1.5-acre site housed 24 senior public housing units, constructed in 1963 as McCarty Apartments. Leon McCarty, a Phoenix native and local real estate agent with a small family-owned firm, grew up in the neighborhood that today surrounds McCarty on Monroe. He built the apartments to fill the need for quality and affordable housing for low-income families and families of color. McCarty often said he hoped the complex might someday serve senior citizens. The city’s Housing Department acquired the apartments in 1977 and preserved McCarty’s original intent for the complex as affordable and safe housing for seniors.

Today, McCarty on Monroe consists of 34 public housing units and 35 low-income housing tax credit units. Placing the parking at grade and building the residential units above the parking allowed the city to expand to 69 units from the original 24. All units are clustered around a central, landscaped courtyard, creating a sense of community and interaction among the residents. The landscaped courtyard includes raised-seat walls, a gazebo, shade trellises and outdoor seating. McCarty on Monroe was designed to complement its urban setting while promoting a sense of “home.” The subtle, colorful palette complements the architecture, character and demographics of the surrounding community, while many “green” elements also were included in the design.

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Phoenix homebuyers may qualify for financial help in purchasing foreclosure

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Potential homebuyers may qualify for $15,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to help buy a foreclosed single-family home, townhouse, or condominium in the city of Phoenix.  The city of Phoenix Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) Homeownership Assistance Program is presenting two information sessions to outline eligibility criteria.  The first session will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, at Devonshire Senior Center, 2802 E. Devonshire Ave. and the other from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, at the Washington Activity Center, 2240 W. Citrus Way.

The loan is only repaid to the city when the homebuyer sells the home, refinances, or moves.  The home must pass a Housing Quality Standards or FHA standards inspection and funds cannot be used for rehabilitation activities.  Families must be Federal Housing Administration creditworthy and complete the required eight-hour Homeownership Education and two-hour one-on-one Credit Assessment counseling.  The property must be maintained as the principal residence and the total household income must be below 120 percent of area median income, which is based on family size.  Participants must contribute a minimum of $1,000 of their personal funds for down payment and closing costs.

More sessions will be offered throughout the city during the next few months.  Funding for this program will end by late summer.  For more information about the program, a list of future sessions and other homeownership opportunities, call 602-262-6602 or click here.

Downtown Voices statement on proposed demolition of Sahara/Ramada Hotel for parking lot

To the Mayor, City Council, ASU Officials, City Staff, ASU Staff, and the Citizens of Phoenix:

It seems for every success that Phoenix can point to as ASU’s benefit to the downtown’s vitality, there also seem glaring and obvious deficiencies.  The decision to purchase and raze an existing historic structure, the Sahara/Ramada Hotel, and replace it with an overflow parking lot for a city-owned hotel, seems an obvious contradiction.

  • Though ASU and Phoenix both promote sustainable development, there is nothing in this direction that is sustainable, Earth-friendly, or revitalizing.
  • Phoenix already has land-banked large swaths of empty lots.
  • The campus was originally proposed to decentralize through downtown, rather than an aggregate of clustered buildings, in an effort to promote activity throughout the downtown.
  • For ASU to promote sustainability and the City to promote adaptive reuse, it seems disingenuous to then take down a historic and easily repaired structure and replace it with an asphalt lot.
  • Likewise, for Phoenix to promote light rail to discourage more cars on the road and the need for lots to park them, while investing in yet another parking lot to serve a city-owned and developed hotel, seems equally two-faced.

There are great opportunities to save, restore, and adapt the original Sahara/Ramada Hotel, with uses that fit well with the city-promoted need for hotel rooms and ASU’s existing colleges.  Within a one-hour Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee meeting on Saturday, March 13, ideas were discussed that would create revenue streams.  A true boutique hotel along the lines of The Clarendon, various care and health facilities (assisted living, long-term care, hospice, or transitional living), and even working art studios to bring fine art students to downtown are all more creative directions and tax revenue than another off-the-tax-rolls empty lot.

The Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee urges the City of Phoenix and ASU Downtown to abandon its harmful decision to demolish the Sahara/Ramada, and instead discuss more creative and forward-thinking goals for this property.  We look forward to a dialogue and request a planning session.  We also trust no decision will be made without further input.

Thank you.

Steve Weiss
Steering Committee Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

Provide feedback on how Phoenix addresses blight & zoning violations

The City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department is reviewing the code compliance process used to address blight and zoning violations to assure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.   The review process stems from direction provided by the Housing and Neighborhoods Council Subcommittee.  For more information or to request a form to provide feedback, contact Meryl Lawrence at 602-534-3607.

Viewpoint: A Desert Shade of Green?

[Source: Alec Appelbaum, The Faster Times blog] — The stubborn fact of urban investment in this century involves density.  We can forget about economic growth outstripping environmental cost if we don’t invest in ways to reward people for living, working and playing close together.  That can mean big opportunities for suburban office parks, rural town centers and old-style cities, but it also means some awkward transitions for cities whose layout relies on excessive driving.  Consider downtown Phoenix.

I just went there for the annual expo of the US Green Building Council, which I suspect chose the locale as a Lenin-shipyard proclamation of their message’s reach.  And downtown Phoenix is a warren of womblike hotels and a massive conference center, with artificial efforts at urbane charm.  This includes a greeter simpering scoldingly at me when I run across the street, homeless men on aluminum benches, and a prerecorded voice telling me to “enjoy the greening of downtown Phoenix.”  The simperer reveals how underpopulated downtown remains, and the homeless hint at how underfunded the social network remains.  But the salient thing is that powerful somebodies want downtown Phoenix to not be horrible.

Yes, there are posted instructions on how to cross a street and security guards at the convention hall say I won’t find a bathing suit at the downtown mall.  But I do find one, and there are sidewalks, and the womblike hotels have balconies overlooking actual blocks and streets.  On day two of my visit, I started to get the trendline.  I saw the new light rail glide past the four old buildings, the “clean cab” company rolls around.  But standing on the Sheraton balcony, I saw again that there’s no waterline or mountains to define the horizon.  Without barriers to physical growth on all sides, it will take natural disaster or political will to make places like Phoenix develop strong centers.  Nature will provide the disasters.  Then what?

We’ll have to see whether trends in urbanizing lead to scalable industries.  It dawned on me late on my 24-hr sojourn that the Compass restaurant on 21 (”turning the direction of SW cuisine,” say elevator ads) is a rotating rooftop.  Forty years ago, these were as thorough an urban inevitable as a downtown ballpark is now.  And as I passed Phoenix’s massive and retroish Chase Field, I wondered naifishly: when people need affordable housing and good jobs, why is there enough room downtown for a fat square brick ballpark?  The riddle’s solution involves homes, business incentives for clean manufacturing, and policies that monetize the pleasures of close proximity.  Each city in America will need to work up its own formula.  As I flew home to New York in a November hurricane, I couldn’t quite rouse that old Northeastern smugness.  And that’s a hopeful sign.

Green renovation is important component of green “building”

In the 2004 report, Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown,” adaptive reuse is recommended as a way to help maintain a diverse, lively urban center.  Today, with “sustainability” all the rage and with GreenBuild coming to town, adaptive reuse should be touted even more as a tool for land conservation and reducing urban sprawl.  For those who prescribe to the “smart growth” concept, it is more efficient and environmentally responsible to reuse historic and vintage buildings closer to urban cores than it is to build new construction out on the fringes.

Note that several of the “opportunities” in the above slideshow may already be functioning businesses, especially those in downtown Phoenix’s Warehouse District.  Because of the fragility of the Warehouse District due to development pressures, those buildings are grouped together to help show why historic and vintage buildings are so necessary to maintain some degree of authenticity to a “district.”  What’s a Warehouse District without warehouses?  Huh, novel concept.

Feel free to comment if you have suggestions for other possible adaptive reuse projects.

Green-building advocates coming to Phoenix

greenbuild_logo[Source: J. Craig Anderson, Arizona Republic] — Thousands of green-building advocates will travel to Phoenix this month for the industry’s largest annual conference, featuring seminars, networking events and a consumer expo focused on energy efficiency and conservation.

Many of the estimated 25,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, from Nov. 11 to 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center, also will get their first glimpse of sustainability efforts in the desert.  The Greenbuild conference will acquaint visitors from around the world with dozens of green-building projects and initiatives in the Valley and across the state.

Through a series of tours featuring more than 70 environmentally friendly Arizona projects, officials said they hope to attract new businesses operating in the burgeoning fields of sustainable development and conservation-oriented products and services.  “I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase some of the things we’re doing out here in the West,” said Ian McDowell, a green-building expert with Tempe-based Sundt Construction.  “This is the first time Greenbuild has traveled west of the Mississippi.” [Note: Read the full article at Green-building advocates coming to Phoenix.]

Big problem for Phoenix: Abandoned homes

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Business Gazette] — Uncut weeds, graffiti, outdoor piles of junk: These are the norms in the world of blight remediation.  But a new, potentially more dangerous problem has emerged as the economy has declined.  Vacant homes, usually the subjects of foreclosure, are keeping the city’s team of 43 blight inspectors on their toes.

At a recent Neighborhood Services Department presentation of its program, Put the Diamond Back Into Your Neighborhood, about 20 people showed up at the Paradise Valley Community Center to hear what the city offers and to share issues they are facing.  Of those who spoke, each was concerned about abandoned homes, whether down the street, on the next block, even next door.

The concerns were different from the kinds of things Neighborhood Services inspectors usually see. Vacant homes often present a combination of more common violations.  “It is absolutely a growing problem,” said Patrick Ravenstein, a neighborhood-preservation supervisor who presented the program.

He said the department’s normal concerns are related to trash and debris, outdoor storage, untamed or dead vegetation, broken fences, junk cars, vehicles parked on surfaces that are not dustproof, graffiti, and open, vacant structures.  He pointed out that residents can play a big role in keeping up their neighborhoods when those kinds of problems crop up.

Some neighborhoods do quarterly cleanups, which the city supports with tools and trash bins. Some groups have landscape crews that assist with maintaining properties for people who are unable to do so. Individuals get involved by painting over graffiti, with supplies from the city.  A new program from the city is Blight Busters, which trains individuals or groups to lead neighborhood efforts.  [Note: Read the full article at Big problem for Phoenix: Abandoned homes.]

Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — They’ll walk.  They’ll share a meal.  And hopefully, they’ll challenge the preconceived notions and myths about people who are experiencing homelessness.  This week, a coalition of 11 service providers, faith-based organizations, and non-profits which make up the Homelessness Awareness Coalition, will do their part to raise knowledge on the complex issue.  Their lofty goal, to end homelessness in Maricopa County.

According to Brian Spicker of Valley of the Sun United Way, about 8,000 individuals experience homelessness each day in Maricopa County and 14 percent of Arizona’s population lives in poverty.  More and more families and individuals are turning to Valley providers for assistance.  Lack of financial resources, eviction and job loss are the three most common reasons given by persons entering shelters.  “Homelessness impacts diverse people,” Spicker said.  “It’s not just a Phoenix issue.  It’s a Valley-wide issue.  At our last Homeless Connect, 25 percent of attendees were newly homeless.” [Note: Read the full article at Coalition raises community awareness of metro Phoenix homelessness.]