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Affordable housing legislation advances with elements of vetoed bills folded in

A group of bills meant to increase the state’s affordable housing supply advanced at the Legislature on Wednesday and was amended to incorporate some elements of a vetoed bill.

Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed an extensive piece of legislation known as the Starter Homes Act. It was opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and would have prohibited municipalities from making certain demands on proposed housing developments. 

Three housing bills that were amended to incorporate elements of that vetoed bill passed in the Senate on Wednesday. Two of those passed out of the chamber.

Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) opposed the bills, accusing proponents of not working in good faith. 

Hoffman specifically accused bill sponsor Rep. John Gillette (R-Kingman) of lying to Hoffman’s committee and going around his back to expand the bill after it passed the committee hearing.

“To do a wholesale expansion — something that has already been vetoed by the governor, mind you to my colleagues across the aisle, a wholesale expansion — it is not OK,” Hoffman said. “And it is a bad precedent to set when bill sponsors and lobbyists lie to committee chairmen.”

Gillette said Hoffman never reached out to him and never returned any of Gillette’s calls. He noted that bill amendments don’t just get added one in the committees where they’re considered. 

“He can say what he likes but he’s wrong,” Gillette said.

Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) also objected to Hoffman’s characterization of the bill sponsor’s process.  

“You better check yourself, buddy,” he told Hoffman.

The bills each passed with some bipartisan support, though members from both sides also opposed them. 

One of the bills will allow property owners more power to build small accessory dwelling units — or ADUs — on their properties, like casitas or mother-in-law suites.

Some groups, like the League, wanted to amend the bill to stipulate that the ADUs cannot be used as short-term rentals, which are used by visitors and don’t add to the state’s permanent housing supply.

“We’ve been supportive of ADUs for two years, but the nuance is important,” League lobbyist Nick Ponder said in explaining the group’s opposition to the bill.

A proposal to require ADUs be leased for periods of 30 days or longer did not make it onto the bill.

Sen. Anna Hernandez (D-Phoenix) brushed aside the concern that ADU expansion will decimate neighborhoods if they can be used as short-term rentals. 

“What has destroyed our neighborhoods is the fact that cities continue to uphold exclusionary zoning that have not allowed us for years to onboard diverse types of housing,” Hernandez said.

She also noted that a population threshold in the bill means it won’t affect cities and towns where some lawmakers live. 

Sen. Ken Bennett (R-Prescott) wasn’t comforted by the population threshold. 

“If we are really trying to make these ADUs address our housing crisis, then I believe in good faith we would accept the recommendation that these ADUs be used for at least 30-day rentals,” Bennett said.

Ponder said he’s “sure” that Hobbs will support one of the bills which expands developers’ ability to create “middle housing,” such as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.

Hobbs was noncommittal Wednesday morning when asked if she’ll veto the housing bills.

“I want the stakeholders at the table for meaningful negotiation,” she said. “I think that has been happening, so I’m looking forward to getting something that I can sign.”

Hobbs also wouldn’t say whether she supports the idea of banning ADUs as short-term rentals.

“I’m gonna let the stakeholders work that out,” she added.

More stories from KJZZ

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