Paul's Note - September 13, 2019

The Arizona Daily Star ran a feature this weekend on families that are in Section 8 housing that are facing losing their homes as landlords turn away from wanting tenants that use the program.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening, and they run the gamut from the way the program has been administered at the federal level to the lack of affordable housing stock despite the amount of new development we’ve had in recent years.

As part of my ongoing series of posts about different city departments, I’d like to tell you a bit about the one that is responsible for programs like Section 8 here in Tucson, Housing and Community Development.

Last month, we announced a new director for the department, Liz Morales. Ms. Morales comes to us with nearly two decades of experience administering housing programs for the Cities of Mesa and Phoenix as well as for the Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation. She also administered the Mesa Police Department’s Crime Free programs and at one time administered Salvation Army programs in Sierra Vista.

HCD employs 140 people and the budget is a shade over $85 million, but only a tiny fraction ($2 million) comes from city general funds. Most of it comes from the federal government, such as funding for public housing and community development block grants.

The part of their work you are probably most familiar with is the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8. HCV, a program funded by the federal government, accounts for 45% of the department’s budget. It benefits our lower income neighbors, but it is just one of many programs that help make sure that Tucsonans go to bed with roofs over their heads. Public housing programs provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

The Housing and Community Development Department manages over 1,500 city-owned public housing units located throughout Tucson. The public housing unit portfolio includes elderly/disabled high-rises, multi-unit housing complexes, and scattered site single family homes.

In addition to HCV programs, the department also provides financing for affordable housing projects.

As for the “Community Development” part of their rubric, the department also funds repair programs for low-income homeowners, mitigation for lead paint, home modifications for persons with disabilities and resources for the homeless. If your neighborhood has applied for a Community Development Block Grant, it’s gone through the Housing and Community Development Department.

I’ll continue this series of department profiles over the next weeks and months. If there is a specific department you are interested in, let me know and I’ll make sure to write that up for you soon.

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Those of you that have visited our building, you’ll see that more progress has been made on our solar panels. They’ve added the beams that will hold the panels as well as the control box. They’ve also done work inside our building.

As I’ve written before, when this project is complete, 75% of our energy will come from the sun rather than fossil fuels.

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Years ago, you may remember that we had a farmer’s market at Udall Park. We had to cancel it because it turned out that we did not own that park outright. Despite a land swap that we thought was complete in the late 1980’s, the Bureau of Land Management still owned the park. The BLM’s rules said that we could not have commercial activity there.

It took a few years (through the tenures of four congresspeople!) for the city to secure the patent on Udall Park. We now own it outright. At the next council meeting, a representative of the BLM will be on hand to present us with the patent.

While we don’t have the same entanglements with BLM in all of our parks, there are a few larger parks where we can’t have events where things are sold because of one federal encumbrance or another. I hope that over the next few years we can get this taken care of so a bigger variety of events can happen at all of our regional parks.