For more than a generation, the greater Phoenix area has been among the most affordable places to live in the U.S. The evidence is in the data: Maricopa County was recently named the fastest-growing county for the third year in a row. With 4.4 million residents, it remains the fourth most populous county in the nation. Families are clearly still drawn by the idea that it’s cheaper to live here than just about anywhere else.

But that’s changing. We’re not San Francisco or Manhattan yet but we appear to be treading the same path.

What is affordable housing?

In the U.S., the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines an “affordable dwelling” as one that costs a household 30% or less of its available income. In the Phoenix area, affordability has been sliding dramatically since 2013.

There are many factors involved:

  • The cost of an average rental has climbed to $1600 per month, with much of the inventory renting at even higher prices.
  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 extremely low-income renters, the Phoenix area offers just 21 affordable units.
  • Mobile home parks are being purchased for redevelopment as luxury housing.
  • The most affordable housing is located at the edges of the metro area. It’s a tradeoff – a lower mortgage or monthly rent in exchange for a much longer and more expensive commute (a problem made worse in some areas by the lack of public transit options).

All this as Maricopa County set a record for the number of evictions last year.

What’s the answer?

One important step is to push for policy change. This Spring, members of the community objected when the Phoenix City Council was about to approve a $231 million luxury apartment, retail, office and restaurant project at Central and Van Buren. Council listened to their concerns and, as a result, the developer ultimately agreed to dedicate 15 of its 300 apartment units to “workforce housing,” intended for households making between $38,000 and $48,000 annually.

You can also support organizations who are finding ways to bring affordable housing into our neighborhoods. Just a few weeks ago, UMOM opened the doors at 19West. The new housing complex rents 54 units to qualifying families at rates far below the market price. The challenge: on the day 19West opened, nearly all the apartments were leased. We need to support organizations like UMOM who are finding creative ways to place more affordable housing into the Valley’s rental pipeline.

Speaking of support – how can I help UMOM?

Supporting UMOM is easy and can be a lot of fun. You can: