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Hobbs vetoes Arizona Starter Homes Act, calls it 'step too far'

Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bipartisan bill on Monday aimed at increasing Arizona’s housing supply, citing concerns from community leaders.

The Arizona Starter Homes Act reached Hobbs' desk after narrowly passing with a mix of Democratic and Republican support in the state Legislature. It would have blocked municipalities from rejecting housing developments for a variety of reasons, like objections to aesthetic designs.

Proponents of the bill say it would have increased the state’s housing supply and made starter homes more affordable and accessible to prospective homebuyers.

But because of the preemptions on local control, Arizona cities and towns lobbied hard against the bill. Hobbs seemed to agree, and called the bill “a step too far” in her veto letter. The governor said it would make Arizona a testing ground for zoning reform, and potentially not help Arizona’s housing woes at all.

“This bill is at the end of the day just too expansive. It is an unprecedented amount of preemption on our cities with no proven results at all. We have no idea that this will actually solve the problem of affordable housing,” Hobbs said.

The governor asked for lawmakers and community leaders to find a “better balance.”

But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they’ve gotten nowhere trying to negotiate with municipal governments.

Listen to state Rep. Analise Ortiz talk about the veto with KJZZ host Mark Brodie

the-show-ortiz-housing-mb-20240319.mp3

“The League of Cities and Towns refused to negotiate on this bill. They told multiple members that they would not negotiate, and they instructed certain cities to not engage with our diverse multiracial coalition,” Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) previously told KJZZ. “We made compromises anyway to appease certain members, so we have done our part in compromising. This is a robust compromise that took more than a year to get to this point.”

Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), who sponsored the Starter Homes Act, criticized Hobbs’ veto alongside his Democratic and Republican colleagues.

“I’m disappointed to hear that Gov. Hobbs vetoed the most bipartisan housing bill in Arizona history,” he said, citing a recent decision by Sedona to allow workers to live out of their cars as housing costs rise.

“This madness has to be dealt with and this veto didn’t help,” Biasiucci said.

Tom Belshe, the executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said last week in a statement that they reached out to one of the bill sponsors, and accused the lawmakers of being the ones who wouldn’t do any negotiating.

Hobbs asked the League to come to the table on other, less expansive housing bills at the state Legislature designed to increase the supply of accessory dwelling units, duplexes and triplexes, and to turn commercial properties into residential ones.

League lobbyist Nick Ponder said they’ve moved to being neutral or supportive of those bills.

“HB2570 amounted to a giveaway to developers with no guarantee it would help Arizonans achieve homeownership,” League President Douglas Nicholls said in a statement.

Get more Arizona politics news

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