Amid rental concerns, Phoenix approves 'casitas'

(The Center Square)— In an 8-1 vote, the Phoenix City Council endorsed allowing accessory dwelling units, commonly called casitas, in an effort to combat affordable housing woes.

Casitas are buildings separate from the main house on a property and are typically used as guest houses. There are several regulations, including square footage limits based on the size of a lot.

The biggest concern regarding the ordinance is that the casitas would be used as short-term rentals or other purposes, as opposed to a long-term housing solution for some Phoenicians.

"I can see enforcement being kinda tough, honestly though I am at the same time sympathetic as a guy whose father lived with him for five and a half years," District 2 Councilman Jim Waring said in the explanation for being the singular vote against.

Meanwhile, supporters of the move have argued that it is a small step in the right direction.

State Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, told The Center Square that she agrees with the council majority's decision.

"We have a significant housing shortage across the state and in the city of Phoenix. We need housing options. Right now, all of the power is in the hands of the big property owners and landlords, and working-class people are struggling to pay rent," she said. "Especially for my community in Maryvale, if we can have families be able to build a casita in their backyard where their child who's going to college can live, where their grandparent who wants to retire with dignity but be close to their family caretaker can live, this will be a huge difference for our communities."

Ortiz added that other cities in the region need to also start taking similar action.

"I'm so proud that the city of Phoenix took the necessary steps to pass this text amendment today, but we need more cities to follow suit. This past year, I was supportive of a bill that would've legalized casitas statewide, and it would've regulated short-term rentals of those casitas, and that bill did not pass. So to see that our efforts at the legislature have now pushed and encouraged city leaders to do what's necessary to find housing options is very encouraging," she said.

When asked about Waring voting against the ordinance, she said that a conversation needs to happen statewide about rent control.

"It would've been amazing to have unanimous support for casitas within the city of Phoenix, but unfortunately, Councilmember Waring voted no. He did talk a little bit about how he had some concerns around whether these will actually be affordable," Ortiz said. "I would like to invite Mr. Waring to have a conversation with me about overturning the state-level preemption that bans cities from implementing rent control. If he's concerned about affordability, let's have a conversation about working with Republicans at the legislature to overturn the ban on rent control."

On the state level, the Arizona Department of Housing posted a reminder to Phoenicians considering building a casitas about the permits that are required to place a manufactured home on a property.

"In light of #Phoenix City Council recently approving backyard casitas, ADOH reminds Phoenix residents that units built offsite and delivered to a residence for installation require ADOH approval, permitting, and inspections prior to occupancy," the department posted Friday morning.


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