City News

What is considered affordable housing? It may not be as difficult as defining art or answering the meaning of life but it’s still difficult nonetheless.

The lack of affordable housing in the area was one of several topics discussed during a special budget meeting on Jan. 19, as the Sedona City Council established its priority list for next fiscal year.

Other priorities briefly discussed were community focus areas, the ongoing transportation master plan, completion of the Dells land use plan, sustainability as it pertains to the Sedona Community Plan and the CSA officer program in Uptown.

In regard to affordable housing, the city has $286,000 sitting in a fund that is established through community benefits via zone change requests. Council and staff acknowledged that it’s not enough for any type of construction but it could be used in other ways.  

“We see some writing on the wall,” City Manager Justin Clifton said. “You reach a point in a community where the cost of housing and the ability to supply workforce just reach a point sometimes where an intervention is necessary. Many communities, whether they wanted to undertake affordable housing or not, came to the conclusion that they had to eventually.”

He went on to say, “We’re hearing from a lot of merchants these days that they can’t get the workforce and that they’re raising their wages and it’s not enough.

“We also get feedback from residents such as the pressure from [Senate Bill] 1350. Some landlords want to get into that business. Bottom line, I don’t see a trend — short-term or long-term — where housing costs go down.”

Councilman Scott Jablow has spoken on this issue several times in the past. Specifically, the hundreds of job openings in the Verde Valley — mostly within the resort industry — that go unfilled because there are simply not enough residents locally to fill them.

“The businesses can’t get staff because they can’t afford to live here,” he said. “I think having affordable housing is paramount to keeping a sustainable city. If they can’t get employees, some businesses may go under.”

He said encouraging homeowners to not turn their long-term rentals into a short-term rentals [now that it is legal in Sedona to do so] may be one of a few ways to maintain what little affordable housing there is.

“Whatever it is, we need to start talking about it and open the dialog,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s very challenging to do anything when it comes to affordable housing but I don’t mind a challenge.”

Councilman Jon Thompson said that the Dells land, the 200 city-owned acres across from the wastewater treatment plant, may be an option when addressing affordable housing.

“We’re looking at an area where it might be developed with some affordable housing that’s close enough to the city where a transit could take people in and out and it wouldn’t affect traffic,” he said. “People could feel like they were part of Sedona without necessarily being within the exact city limits. It’s just one more reason why we need to look at the Dells.”

Council was in favor of moving affordable housing up on the priority list while Clifton suggested forming a community work group to delve into the matter even more.


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