Tucson ban on landlords considering income could hobble its city budget

An Arizona lawmaker wants the state Attorney General's office to investigate an action taken by the City of Tucson.

Arizona House Speaker-elect Ben Toma, R-Peoria, filed an SB 1487 complaint with the Arizona Attorney General on Wednesday, asking the office to investigate Tucson’s policy forbidding landlords from considering people’s sources of income on rental housing applications. Toma wants the Attorney General’s office to investigate whether this violates state law.

An SB 1487 complaint allows a state lawmaker to compel the Attorney General to investigate if a lower unit of government has violated state law. If the Attorney General finds a violation, they have a limited window to rectify the state law violation before the state withholds funding from the community.

In his letter to the Attorney General’s office, Toma made his case.

“The Arizona Legislature, however, has explicitly prohibited municipalities from wielding their fair housing codes to continually exact more regulatory burdens on rental property owners,” Toma wrote. “The Ordinance hence facially and directly contravenes the Legislature’s directive that major cities such as Tucson can enact supplementary fair housing codes if—and only if—they do so prior to January 1, 1995, and the provisions of such ordinances are “substantially equivalent to” parallel federal and state laws.”

Toma also notes that the policy enacted by Tucson on September 27, 2022, compels some property owners to enroll in the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8).

"By purporting to force property owners in a federal program that governing federal law makes voluntary, the Ordinance is ultra vires and inconsistent with the Supremacy Clause of the Arizona Constitution, see Ariz. Const. art. II, § 3," Toma wrote.

Voicing further opposition to the policy, Toma said in a press release that the real problem is a lack of housing development caused by government restrictions.

“As to the merits of the ordinance, it is nothing but smoke and mirrors that cloud the real issue at hand: years of poor growth management, zoning and land use policies that have limited new housing development, and local decisions that have pushed away job and economic opportunities and kept wages considerably lower than other comparable metropolitan areas,” Toma said. “These decisions, and these decisions alone, are the reasons why citizens in Tucson cannot find safe and affordable housing options. Blaming those who construct new housing or those who provide housing is misguided at best.”

The Arizona Attorney General's office typically completes its SB 1487 investigations within 30 days of receiving the request.

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