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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Affordable housing bond in sights of Flagstaff City Council

Local Government

By Kimberly James | Mar 14, 2020

Flagstaff City Council |

Flagstaff City Council is in overwhelming support of adding a housing bond measure to the upcoming ballot. 

Other issues that the council is asking voters to approve bonds for include funding for new parks and recreation facilities, open space, forest restoration and pension liability. 

“I think we have done an awesome job at making sure we have open space,”  Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans said to the Arizona Daily Sun. “What we have not done an awesome job at is making sure people have a place to live in our community.”

The city's housing commission made three separate proposals, each depending on how much of the county's $61 million bonding funds went to housing. The largest proposal was for $30 million, and many on the city council said they were in support of allocating that much to the housing commission.

Vice-Mayor Adam Shimoni said he believes that a housing bond won't be a hard sell to the county's voters. In 2018, the affordable housing bond lost by 2%. 

Councilmember Regina Salas said she believes the affordable housing problem is one of supply and demand, that it can be corrected through the private sector. She did not support the affordable housing bond. She did approve of some measures put forth in the affordable housing bond, including funds for eviction prevention and incentives for further private development, but she believes state and federal funds are available to address the city's affordable housing situation.

Councilmember Jim McCarthy expressed reservations about placing a housing bond on the ballot before addressing the issue of public safety pension plans. The city owes $111 million to the pension fund, and paying into it takes money from other areas. McCarthy was not in favor of bonding to solve the pension problem.

Councilmember Charlie Odegaard said the only way to pay down the pension fund is to ask voters to approve a new dedicated sales tax. He acknowledged that this would not sit so easily with voters.

“It’s going to be a heavy lift if we go down this road. We’re going to get a lot of pushback from the community, no question about it, but this year could be my last year on the city council,” Odegaard said. “It  could cost me an election, but it's ok, at least I said I tried.”

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