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Controversial housing bill stalls at the AZ Senate

One of the most significant legislative efforts to address Arizona’s affordable housing crisis is stalled in the state Senate. 

The “Starter Homes Act” would greatly expand housing developers' power to build more homes, regardless of design restrictions imposed by municipalities. GOP leaders of the House and Senate held a press conference in January to present a joint affordable housing plan and touted the act as their main housing effort.

The bill passed through the House with amendments, but an identical bill has since stalled in the Senate. Kim Quintero, a spokesperson for the Senate Republican majority, says the bill hasn’t been brought up for a vote because it doesn’t currently have the votes to pass.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns, which opposes the bill, said the same on Friday.

“We believe the [Senate] president and sponsor are still attempting to secure the necessary votes,” League lobbyist Nick Ponder said.

Sen. President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) did not respond to requests for comment. But Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), the bill’s sponsor, says he’s not concerned. 

“I’m not worried about it, the housing bill is still in play,” Borrelli said.

On Tuesday, Borrelli said the bill was ready, but the chamber ran out of time to hear it. But it didn’t pass on Wednesday or Thursday either, as other bills moved forward.

Borrelli says the bill has only been slowed by other business on the Senate’s agenda, and the fact that not all members have been present to vote on the legislation.

The bill faced opposition in the House from members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, led by Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), who said on Tuesday it didn’t have the votes in the Senate.

It was also opposed by some Democrats, but passed in the House with bipartisan support. 

At least one Senate Democrat, Anna Hernandez (D-Phoenix) said she supports Borrelli’s bill, meaning that it will have some bipartisan support if it’s ever brought to a vote.

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