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Alex Martinez

Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: Will you vote for the affordable housing bond on the November ballot? How should the money be spent on? If you oppose the bond, how should the city address the issue of affordable housing?

Council

Paul Deasy

We need affordable housing, but I’m concerned with Council’s funding choice. Rather than an independent funding source, Council decided to use up half our city’s remaining credit limit until 2037, kicking the can down the road for future Councils with no outline on how the money would be spent. My vote will depend on the financial plan, which hasn’t been properly explained to the public. We need to treat this as a public investment, not a public expenditure.

The next recession will hit within 2 years. We should use the bond to buy land when the market plummets to give us the most options. We can set up land trusts, coops, Title IX housing, or sell to grow the fund, putting stipulations in requiring low-cost rent and supporting infrastructure. Other uses should include down payment loans for first time home buyers, and helping local non-profits like Housing Solutions.

Regina Salas

My heart says “yes” on Proposition 422 - Affordable Housing Bond, but the pragmatic side of me says “no,” listening to Flagstaff citizens. The need for affordable housing in Flagstaff is an imperative for decades. However, I’m concerned the proposed $25 million affordable housing bond nearly exhausts the city’s bonding capacity of $40 million for the next 20 years.

Would landlords pass on the increases in property taxes to their tenants? What would the cost be for residential/commercial property owners? Affordable housing needs to be addressed. However, I’m not certain that a $25 million bond now is the answer. It’s important to pursue alternative solutions. I’m likely to vote no; however, I would consider voting yes if I could be convinced that bonding needs are met, including critical water infrastructure with the remaining $15 million, and that the cost do not place an excessive burden on property owners and tenants.

Dennis Lavin

Just so the community is aware of the question’s background – the City Council approved Resolution No. 2018 – 35, which calls for a vote on a new General Obligation bond, up to $25 million this November.

I am not in favor of the Bond Resolution, because its purpose is too vague and as I read the Resolution, an un-elected Housing Bond Commission will provide the direction as to how our tax dollars will be spent. Briefly, the bonds could provide loans/grants to construct, rehab, redevelop and acquire property for Affordable Housing purposes.

As to Affordable Housing in Flagstaff, it has always been relatively expensive to live in our great community. I simply offer the following: 1) change the model for compensating our city employees, 2) encourage economic growth and employer choices, and 3) continue to work with our educational partners to enhance employable skill sets.

Alex Martinez

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I have serious reservations about approving this 25 million dollar bond as proposed. There is no data, no research on an affordable housing plan for Flagstaff as stated in the proposal. Affordable housing is a necessary goal that I support but how our community get there is my concern. There are 500 homeless students in Flagstaff, the elderly, the working poor and homeless veterans and the list goes on. What are the specifics? This bond gives no assurances that it will help anyone.

This cuts the city's bonding capacity to 50 percent. There are serious health and safety issues confronting Flagstaff such as flood plains, the impact of forest fires, environmental and water issues that will need bond funding. This proposition has good intentions behind it but no specific plans.

Adam Shimoni

According to the Arizona Housing Coalition, Flagstaff has the largest gap between average rent costs and wages in the state. Affordable housing is definitely one of my top priorities. Studies show that the availability of affordable housing reduces stress, provides safety, frees up funds within families' budgets to spend on health care, food and education, which leads to improved physical and mental health and contributes to the economic vitality and diversity of communities.

I therefore support the affordable housing bond placed on November's ballot, and will vote for it. The bond gives us more leverage to negotiate with developers for housing that best suits our specific needs while furthering home-buyer assistance programs with down payments and closing costs. However, the bond doesn't solve everything. For example, we should develop a better partnership with NAU, work towards more public private partnerships, invest in Flagstaff’s infrastructural needs, and explore small home projects.

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Austin Aslan

I’ll vote yes on Prop 422. And had I been on Council, I would’ve supported placing it on the ballot. Housing affordability is the primary concern residents have shared with me as I campaign. Voters deserve this opportunity to be heard.

Housing affordability is an existential threat to Flagstaff’s DNA, and “hits home” at every economic level. Scenarios are endless and wide-ranging. For example, our fire department is finding enlistment difficult because recruits struggle to find housing within their starting budget.

The funds require effective monitoring, of course. Among the ways I’d target expenditures: strengthening the City’s existing IPAH initiatives, and creating greater incentives for public private partnerships.

I fear the term “affordable housing” is confusing, with vastly different meanings for everyone. But it’s essential we focus on the bond’s true goal: to support the families and workforce that are the foundation of our community and essential to its future.

Mayor

Coral Evans

Yes. Affordable housing has been an issue for decades and it's high time we try do something about it. How the funds are spent should depend upon the recommendation of an advisory committee (made up of citizens with expertise in various aspects of housing) and in response to current market conditions to ensure the most good at maximum efficiency. Not supporting the affordable housing bond is to continue to do nothing and I do not believe that is a responsible option for our community.

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