Latest Update from your State Senator Lela Alston

Monday November 2, 2020

Affordable Housing ~ The Elections~ Recognizing Dr. Albert Celoza    

Dear Friends,

Election Day 2020 is finally here! All day tomorrow, voters who have not already mailed or dropped off early ballots, will go to the polls and exercise our greatest right—electing our leaders. Fortunately, because AZ mail-in ballots have been tabulated since October 20, 2020, the first election results will be posted around 8:00 PM. To assist in-person voters and for those who have yet to drop off their ballots at a voting center, I am providing some information about where and how to vote tonight and tomorrow.

Affordable housing is in short supply, particularly in Maricopa County, the nation’s fastest growing county. I reached out to Courtney LeVinus, President & CEO of AZ Multihousing Association and Joan Serviss, Executive Director of the AZ Housing Coalition, for their perspectives on accessible and affordable housing for low and middle-income families. I have known Courtney and Joan for years and consider them two of Arizona’s most knowledgeable and visionary housing experts. Affordable housing and our homeless community members are legislative issues that I tackle each session and will continue to do so in 2021.

Finally, Dr. Albert Celoza, Ph.D., is a friend, constituent, neighbor, gifted musician and highly respected Phoenix College (PC) professor. During this election cycle, Albert and the PC Civic Action Group have worked tirelessly providing information to students and the community about candidates, propositions, election options—all the information voters need before casting their ballots. He is our LD 24 Elections Hero.

We have lots to cover in this issue so let’s get started……..

The 2020 Elections

We have all been bombarded with mailings, calls and texts about the importance of this election on every level. It is true! This election is vitally important, and voting is crucial.

Many people have already dropped their ballot off at a Voting Center, others mailed theirs via USPS. Some people are voting early in person, while others are choosing to vote tomorrow. Arizona is fortunate to have multiple options for voting and I commend Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and AZ SOS Katie Hobbs for their work during this election. If you are still uncertain where to drop off your ballot or where to vote tomorrow, this link will provide you with everything you need to know:  https://recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/

I am also including an article from the NY Times about the readiness of AZ and 6 other battleground states and am happy to report because of our well-established vote-by-mail system, AZ is in good shape this year.

For those who did not catch it, AZ SOS Katie Hobbs was part of last night’s CBS ” 60 Minutes” segment on the importance that AZ plays in this year’s election. Congratulations to SOS Hobbs, who represented AZ very well! The link to the segment is here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/arizona-early-voting-2020-election-60-minutes-2020-11-01/

How Prepared Are These 7 Battlegrounds for the Election? A Readiness Report – The New York Times

Short on money and under enormous pressure, many swing states are still trying to shore up a democratic process challenged daily by court cases, new laws and surges in the coronavirus. By Nick …

www.nytimes.com

The Need for Affordable Housing

Perspectives from 2 Housing Experts

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus

President/CEO | Arizona Multihousing Association

When the 2020 Arizona Legislature convened, the Arizona Multihousing Association worked in a bipartisan fashion with legislators and real estate and housing industry allies to restore funding to the state’s Housing Trust Fund (HTC).

There was also an effort to establish a state Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to encourage more affordable housing statewide.  We have been urging municipalities to erase barriers to the rapid development of affordable housing. The City of Phoenix is taking the lead adopted the Affordable Housing Initiative, which seeks to build and preserve 50,000 units of affordable housing by 2030.

While COVID-19 hit the momentum and collaboration did not. Our organizations is laser focused on advocating for more affordable housing, but will it be enough? Even before the pandemic, just to match current growth, the state needed to catch up and construct more housing including rental and attainable housing. According to a 2019 study by Elliott D. Pollack and Co., Arizona had a housing mismatch between that which was being built, and that which needed to be built. We need to build at least 10,000 rental housing units each year just to meet demand, this is not happening as 300 people a day move to Arizona.

The study found that a majority of new construction was catered towards the higher end of the rental market, despite a strong need and overwhelming demand for workforce and attainable housing.

Thankfully, in 2021, legislators can pick up right where they left off, and resume efforts to establish a state LIHTC, as well as restore funding to the state HTF. Crisis breeds opportunity, and by exposing the shortcomings of our ability to create new housing, we have the opportunity to effectively solve our housing supply issue coming out of this crisis before we reach a point of no return.  We have a window of opportunity to avoid the catastrophic housing issues that are occurring in California, Washington, Chicago and other major metropolitan areas.

Additionally, localities may begin implementing the recommendations put forth by both Presidents Obama and Trump by removing onerous and costly design guidelines, reducing zoning regulations and policies rooted in antiquated and racially biased redlining, as well as offer incentives to developers for affordable housing.

Joan Serviss

Executive Director| AZ Housing Coalition

Homelessness is a complex problem. It resists a single-agency or one-size fits all approach and to resolve the issue of homelessness requires a large, collective, on-going investment of financial and professional resources.  It also calls for an understanding of the factors that contribute to this problem – poverty, domestic violence, chronic health conditions, mental health issues, and substance use.  While people experiencing homelessness absolutely struggle with these and other problems, the primary reason that people become and remain homeless is their lack of safe and stable housing that they can afford.  Affordable housing is scarce in our state.  The need far exceeds the supply, especially for those individuals and families with extremely low incomes.

We were in an affordable housing crisis before the coronavirus pandemic began.  It will only be exacerbated by the health crisis, further illustrating how inextricably linked these two issues are.  According to a recent US Census Bureau survey, 35% of Arizonans are not current on rent or mortgage and could likely face eviction or foreclosure, if not for the CDC eviction moratorium.

The pandemic has also disproportionately harmed Black, Indigenous, and Latinx populations by widening racial inequities and creating economic hardships. Households of color faced higher levels of eviction and housing instability before the crisis, and all signs point to greater risk of eviction once the moratorium is lifted.  It is impossible to fully address the racial inequities our state, our nation is facing without starting at home. After years of disinvestment and denial, now is the time for policymakers to show their commitment to housing programs that support the stability and mobility of people of color and households struggling to make rent.

Thankfully, we have the policy solutions to employ.  Senator Alston, and her colleagues, have been longstanding champions of efforts to restore the state housing trust fund, a fund made of unclaimed property proceeds that supports the preservation and production of affordable housing and increases opportunities for families and individuals to access these homes.   And we can enact a state low income housing tax credit, which mirrors a federal one created under President Reagan and expanded and reauthorized by Presidents Clinton and Trump – which would create about 1,800 construction jobs annually to build these new housing units and create about $2 billion in total economic activity before the program sunsets.

The policy choices we make now to weather this virus can also lead us to a better path for the future that helps all Arizonans in their pursuit of a safe, affordable place to call home.

 LD 24 2020 Elections Hero—Dr. Albert Celoza, Ph.D.

Dr. Albert Celoza, Ph.D. (Dr. Celoza), is the Phoenix College (PC) Department Chair of Liberal Arts, Program Director of both International Studies and Religious Studies, Political Science Professor, Advisor to the PC Model UN and PC Civic Action Group. Throughout the years, he has mentored many current, past and (I am certain of this) future legislators and civic leaders.

Photo by Robert Nolan, Assistant to Senator Juan Mendez, LD 26 & member of the Model UN

During this election cycle, the PC Civic Action Group provided students and the community with valuable information about candidates, registering to vote and the civic duty of all Americans—casting our ballot. Dr. Celoza and his students demonstrated what is possible with organized outreach and advocacy.

For all that he has done and continues to do as a professor, advisor, mentor and community leader, it is my honor to recognize Dr. Celoza as our LD 24 2020 Elections Hero. Please join me in thanking Dr. Celoza for inspiring his students with his own passion for democracy and civic engagement.

Below is a photo from Dr. Celoza’s 2019 Constitution Day, which took place at the AZ Senate. For additional information about the PC Civic Action Group and the Model UN, feel free to email Dr. Celoza at albert.celoza@phoenixcollege.edu.  

Final Thoughts

AZ’s COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed during the past several days, which means that we cannot become complacent. Diagnostic test percentages are up, as well as hospitalizations and new confirmed cases. Please be careful and remember

  • Wear a mask in public spaces
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day
  • Maintain physical distancing protocols when in public spaces
  • Stay home, if possible

To keep posted on the latest COVID-19 numbers, free masks, COVID-19 testing and more, visit www.azdhs.gov.

I value your feedback so please continue sending your questions and comments to lalston@azleg.gov.

Thank you,

Lela Alston

LD 24 State Senator

lalston@azleg.gov

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