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How Hobbs has been brokering negotiations over housing legislation

All eyes are on abortion legislation at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers in the Senate are expected to repeal the territorial-era near-total abortion ban that was recently upheld by the state Supreme Court.

But as we wait to see what happens on the abortion front, the Legislature still has a few other major issues to address — and on the top of that list is housing. 

Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bipartisan bill designed to address the state’s housing shortage in March, saying it went a "step too far."

Jeremy Duda reports that, ever since, she’s been brokering negotiations aimed at getting something else passed on the housing front. Duda has been covering the story for Axios Phoenix, and he joined The Show to talk about it.

Full conversation

LAUREN GILGER: Good morning, Jeremy. 

JEREMY DUDA: Good morning.

GILGER: OK. So what's on the table right now, Jeremy in terms of possible housing legislation?

DUDA: Well, there's a handful of housing issues. I mean, there's a lot of legislation that's been proposed this session, obviously the one that the governor vetoed and some others that are still kind of working their way through the process. So there's a lot of different topics that on housing that are kind of the subject of these meetings. But it seems like the three big ones that people keep focusing on when I talked to the folks who were involved are a, a successor to the Starter Homes Bill that was vetoed, something on accessory dwelling units and something on what, was often referred to as middle housing, which is stuff like duplexes, triplexes, town homes. Those are kind of as far as it seems to be kind of the three things that are really the focus needs. I'm sure there's some other stuff as well, but seems like those are the main ones.

GILGER: OK. All right. So the bill that Hobbs vetoed was pretty far reaching and she said it went too far. So remind us first what that bill would have done.

DUDA: The bill was aimed at the kind of, encouraging the construction of lower cost starter homes. You know, for folks, younger folks who are trying to buy their first homes and it would have limited, severely limited cities' ability to require certain aesthetic features that could raise the price of like enclosed garages that, restrictions on forcing people to, you know, form homeowners associations, stuff on the kind of shared features between houses. And it's all meant to kind of low, you know, allow the construction of lower priced homes though, since the, you know, obviously one of the biggest problems we've seen with housing over the last few years is, you know, the shortage that has really jacked prices and made housing, single family homes really unaffordable for people.

GILGER: Right, right. So looking at what that bill aimed to do the kind of sweeping legislation there and, you know, bills in the past, like, how far might this current legislation that's being negotiated go? Is it going to make as big of an impact?

DUDA: Certainly wouldn't make as big of an impact. I mean, you know, Governor Hobbs kind of side sided with the, cities, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, who viewed this as, taking away too much of their authority, the league and the cities they represent, want something that's a bit more narrowly tailored is not kind of a blanket entitlement as they put it for developers everywhere. So that they're kind of trying to strike the balance on what's something that will have an impact but still, but not go as far as the, that the governor vetoed.

GILGER: Right, the League of Cities and Towns has been a big voice in all of this. What are they saying about this new proposal or these new proposals?

DUDA: Well, I don't, I don't know what kind of proposal. I haven't seen any of the proposals that are actually out there. If there are, do you think any kind of concrete proposals or stuff that's still being negotiated. That was when I spoke with them last week, that was their position. They wanted something narrowly tailored something that's not, as I said, like a blanket entitlement for developers to build anything anywhere that you know, kind of the way that the they viewed the previous bill is doing. 

GILGER: So, tell us more about the Hobbs administration's role in these negotiations. She kind of stayed hands off at the first round and now is, is jumping in.

DUDA: Yeah, very much. You know, she vetoed this bill. She, she kind of signaled that she was not happy with it as it was making its way to her desk. And after she vetoed it, I asked her at a press conference, you know, what are you doing about, are you going to be involved in these discussions? What are, what are you and your administration doing? Obviously, housing is one of the biggest problems facing the state, something that she's talked about before. And I was kind of surprised by her response, which is that she said she didn't really think it needed her involvement. Well, turns out, she kind of changed her mind and not long after that started putting together these meetings, her administration's role as far as I've been told is kind of a listening agent, a referee, not somebody who's really making proposals themselves, but kind of fostering that dialogue and kind of getting everyone together.

GILGER: Yeah. What about the other side of this debate? What are home builders developers, realtors kind of pushing for?

DUDA: I don't know the specifics of you know, the plans they're pushing for. Obviously they want, you know, they, that's a lot of these folks were very supportive of the bill, it was vetoed, they're supportive of, you know, the accessory dwelling unit and the middle housing bills. You know, they want it to be as kind of permissive as possible while you know, kind of going up against the league that wants the opposite wants cities to retain as much of their authority as they can. 

GILGER: So all of this was spurred, of course, by the fact that we're facing this housing crisis in our state as it's often referred to, we face a shortage of 270,000 housing units you reported. I mean, how much can legislation address this kind of challenge Jeremy put this into context for us?

DUDA: Well, it's hard to say, I mean, there's so many different issues and you know, you know, these three, these aren't even these three proposals, these three ideas that we've been discussing aren't even, you know, all encompassing. I mean, first of all, these don't even address, you know, apartments, multifamily housing, I guess the, the middle housing kind of does with duplexes, triplexes, stuff like that. But you know, apartments, rental units are very unaffordable and unattainable right now as well. These are focused more on I guess, you know, not apartments but you know, duplex, triplex, accessory dwelling unit, stuff that people can rent out. And the starter homes bill is aimed, of course at single family homes. So it's hard to see that one bill or maybe even a couple of bills could have, you know, super far reaching impact. But we'll have to see what they come up with. I mean, this is a major problem that we've been grappling with for a while and you know, it's probably gonna take us a while to get out of it.

GILGER: Yeah. All right. We'll leave it there for now. That is Jeremy Duda covering the story on developing housing legislation proposals for Axios Phoenix. Jeremy, thanks for coming on. Thanks for breaking it down. I appreciate it.

DUDA: Thanks for having me.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.