FILE - Phoenix housing

New single family residences being built in Phoenix.

With rental rates increasing nearly twice the national rate in the first six months of 2019, state lawmakers added $15 million in State General Fund revenues to the Arizona Housing Trust Fund. Public private partnerships also are expanding to reach the state’s neediest residents.

Celebrating 30 years this year, the Housing Trust Fund received six times more in state general funds than it has since 2010. The funds become available July 1, 2020. Since its first deposit in 1989, the fund has had more than $318 million available to invest in housing, according to the State Department of Housing.

This year, the $15 million in additional funds are being directed toward the creation of new affordable housing developments for seniors, veterans and behavioral health patients.

Legislation is also being drafted by housing advocates to create a state tax credit to help fund affordable housing units, similar to a federal tax credit.

“The rising cost to live in the Valley isn’t just an affordable housing problem for people making minimum wage or living on fixed incomes,” Catherine Reagor writes at the Arizona Republic. “Middle-class earners feel the squeeze too. The result is nearly half of Phoenix-area renters are paying more than they can afford for housing.”

Nonprofit housing developers, the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, financial institutions, the Arizona Association of Realtors, and the Arizona Community Foundation and many more are creating nonprofit grant opportunities to support and expand affordable housing and reduce homelessness, the foundation says.

In the past month, the Arizona Housing Coalition, the Arizona Community Foundation, and the Urban Land Institute of Arizona have held meetings to address the issue.

The Arizona Housing Fund, a component fund of the Arizona Community Foundation, offers no-interest loans to help developers build affordable housing projects. So far they have helped build 2,900 homes in Arizona over the last ten years. In 2019, the foundation introduced a new way for the community at large to contribute to its fund.

Its campaign slogan, “Close on your home and get someone closer to home,” is designed to encourage supporters to ultimately raise $100 million for affordable housing over at least the next decade.

Home buyers, builders and real estate agents can participate in the program by donating $25 to the fund when they close on a home sale.

Scottsdale-based Meritage is the first home builder to donate to the fund, announcing it has set aside $25,000 to match each of its home buyers' $25 contributions over the next few years.

Arizona insurers and hospitals also announced a collaboration to develop funds to offer affordable housing and health care assistance. United Healthcare, Arizona’s largest Medicaid provider, recently loaned $20 million to Chicanos Por La Causa, The nonprofit renovated a 500-unit apartment complex in Maryvale, dedicating less than 20 percent, roughly 70 of the units, to homeless and medically indigent residents.

Gov. Doug Ducey also signed legislation this year to prevent landlords from evicting tenants if they partially paid rent using assistance from third parties like churches or charities. Pointing to national studies, Ducey argued that the state’s affordable housing units housed only about one third of those in need. The new law, he says, “encourages landlords to offer affordable housing and to participate in public housing assistance programs.”