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GOP lawmakers resurrect failed housing legislation, focus on cutting red tape

Arizona’s Republican lawmakers want to allow homes to be built on smaller lots and prohibit cities from requiring homebuyers to join homeowners associations. 

It’s part of the caucus’ plan to address Arizona’s affordable housing needs. 

Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) says cities put up too much red tape in the way of building new homes, adding months to the building process.

“Frick, a city, can please, you can turn a permit around in a reasonable amount of time. And these cities are hilarious,” Petersen said. 

Similar legislation was introduced last year in a larger, more comprehensive package known as Senate Bill 1117, but it ultimately failed to pass. This year, lawmakers say they hope that more narrowly focused bills will pass. 

Former Sen. Steve Kaiser devoted his time in the legislature to SB 1117. He gathered a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to support the bill, but it had too much opposition in both chambers and died. 

Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City) confirmed that the caucus’ plan is comprised of Kaiser’s ideas.

“There's other bills like this where we took pieces. … This is just a piece of that puzzle that we think, ‘ok, everybody can get along with this one,’” Biasiucci said. He’s hopeful Democrats will get on board.

Democrats have also introduced a smattering of ideas that Kaiser attempted last year in their housing plan.

It remains to be seen whether the Republicans and Democrats will support each other’s versions of resurrected Kaiser bills. But there is an appetite for change when it comes to housing, and it’s an issue that’s top of mind for voters.

“Every time the government gets in the way and starts slowing down building permits, that cost gets put on the builder, which gets passed on to the homebuyer,” Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) said.

Borrelli and Biasiucci have introduced identical “mirror” bills in their respective chambers that would eliminate “aesthetic design review standards.” Those are features housing projects can be canceled for that aren’t safety-related, but rather regulations based on the appearance of a house. Home projects can be rejected because of things like the paint color, the shape of the tiles or the pitch of the roof. 

Borrelli and Biasiucci want to take away municipalities’ ability to reject projects based on those objections.

Lobbyists representing Arizona’s municipalities have already registered in opposition to the proposed bills. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns warns state mandates will preempt local officials and residents from making the best decisions for their specific communities.

“Some bill proposals being considered by the Arizona Legislature will thwart the successes made by city and town leaders, remove resident participation in the development of their neighborhoods, and weaken or eliminate local consideration of residents’ desires and needs,” the League said in a statement

Executive Director Tom Belshe confirmed the bills lawmakers introduced at their press conference on Monday are some of the ones the statement refers to.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.