Weekly Update – August 8th, 2021

Sunday August 8th, 2021

Strap in neighbors, this is a long one. As the first Tempe YIMBY newsletter, written during the precipice of an eviction crisis and multiple major federal and city initiatives, we have an unusually large amount to cover this week. Some of it will spill over in to next week, but here is a table of contents for what we have now:

1) City Council Update: Council approves unanimously the purchase of a hotel for conversion to transitional housing, loses opportunity on another purchase

2) Eviction Crisis Update: The Biden administration announced a second round of eviction moratoriums, but the legal ground is shaky. Details on which funds exist (Maricopa County) and why it hasn’t been spent/likely won’t get spent (poor government design)

3) Federal Money Coming to Tempe: City staff have outlined how they want to spend $45 million in federal funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (Spoiler, 1/3 is going to a new police station)

4) Upcoming Events and Meetings: The next city council meeting is on September 9th, we outline its agenda

5) Details and housekeeping about this newsletter

City Council

                On Thursday night, Tempe City Council voted unanimously to purchase the Rodeway Inn Hotel on 2101 E Apache Blvd for $3.3 million for the purpose of transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness. The purchase will use city funds and will be reimbursed by the federal government through the newly passed American Rescue Plan Act. From google street view, it appears the property has 30-40 units.

                Of course, 40 units is only about 10% of the current homeless population in Tempe. Those numbers have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and in the preceding five years the homeless population has never shrunk. We believe that for the city to adequately address the homelessness problem, Tempe needs a total of 500 emergency shelter and transitional housing beds. Though it would be a challenge to achieve immediately, city staff approached the Council with a proposal to construct a new non-congregate shelter which would house 200+ residents, at a price tag of roughly $6 million. Staff’s ideas for the new shelter were sidelined at the time, but they could be revived with community support.

Funding

                Funding for the acquisition come froms President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act funds (which is a bad name and a good acronym). The ARPA is giving Tempe $45 million, of which $5.9 million is earmarked for the construction or acquisition of congregate or non-congregate shelters. The city had an opportunity to buy three adjacent motel complexes on Apache for $7.9 million as well, but the deal fell through. These motels were dense ground level units with shared walls, and would make for a very excellent complex of shelter units. The city should do what is possible to revive this deal, or find a similar number of units for purchase elsewhere in the city. 

Eviction Crisis

                The Biden administration almost allowed the nationwide eviction moratorium to expire this week, and has put up a temporary replacement they acknowledge is built on shaky legal ground.

                The original moratorium was made as an executive order under the authority of the CDC, using the legal argument that mass evictions would exacerbate the pandemic and should be curtailed. This argument was struck down by the Supreme Court, who gave Congress one month to pass a law replacing the executive action (a deadline which was passed on July 30th). Congress, focused on the infrastructure bill and largely isolated from the reality of the housing crisis, failed to act in time, and will likely not act at all.

                Congressional democrats insisted it was the White House’s responsibility to act, and Biden rolled out a new legal argument that will extend the moratoriums until October 3rd if they withstand judicial scrutiny. The new moratoriums only target renters in areas with the “highest” levels of covid transmission, but in practice most renters will be covered. How long will the new moratorium actually last? Landlords have already filed lawsuits against the administration, and if a preliminary injunction is granted by the courts the new moratorium might last less than a few months.

                What is the way out for Arizona? First, Maricopa County has millions of dollars in federal funds for rental assistance that has not been used. Many landlords have been refusing the money, and even more renters have been unable to access the funds. This is a failure or bureaucratic organization, and will not be addressed by the state legislature unless the legislature is called into a special session (something which will no happen).

Congressman Greg Stanton has put together a resource for Arizona renters on his website at https://stanton.house.gov/2021/4/the-eviction-moratorium-was-extended-here-s-what-you-need-to-know.

                The qualifications for the program are:

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available governmental assistance for rent or housing;
  • The individual either (i) earned no more than $99,000 (or $198,000 if filing jointly) in Calendar Year 2020 or expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2021 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2020 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check).
  • The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay- off, or extraordinary8 out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial rent payments that are as close to the full rent payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses;
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and reside in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options; and
  • The individual resides in a U.S. county experiencing substantial9 or high10 rates of community transmission levels of SARS-CoV-2 as defined by CDC.

                At the federal level, additional rental aide will likely only come if it’s included in the Democrat only reconciliation bill, which will happen after the infrastructure agreement and probably not before September. A full eviction moratorium is not pertinent to the budget and would likely not be reconcilable, nor will moderate senators be likely to support it. And as we’ve said before, the state legislature will also fail to act.

Federal Money Coming to Tempe

                Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act is bringing $45 million to Tempe to fund or reimburse capital projects (the construction or purchase of new buildings, land, and other physical assets). Here is the layout provided to the city council by city staff:

                In the next two weeks Tempe YIMBY will bring more information to the public about the details and necessity of these line items, as opposed to more funds for social housing and rental assistance.

Upcoming Meetings and Dates

Deadline for Coyotes arena funding counter proposal: August 19, 2021

Regular City Council Meeting: September 9th

                Agenda Items:

  • Updates on the Vaccination campaign, Equal Pay for Equal Work program, solid waste rate recommendation, Narcan presentation by Tempe Police Department
  • Details of American Rescue Plan Act funding
  • Going over future agenda items

Housekeeping

                This is the first of a weekly newsletter. In the near term, we plan to cover new developments going up in Tempe, dig deeper into the ARPA funding, examine the response to the eviction crisis by Tempe’s elected officials, explain Mayor Corey Woods’ Hometown for All initiative, and provide our understanding of the proposed Coyotes arena deal.

                Please let us know what you want from a newsletter like this, what information you find useful or interesting, and anything you think we got wrong that needs correcting for next week.

Love thy neighbor,

Tempe YIMBY

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