TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The affordable housing crisis is pushing seniors into homelessness; some for the very first time. According to the Center for Elder Independence, half of homeless adults are over the age of 50, up from 11% nearly 30 years ago.
A local owner tries to be part of the solution and encourages other owners to do the same.
“When you have people and you’re indifferent to their human suffering, then you can make a lot of money,” Stephanie Zill said.
Zill rents one-bedroom apartments for $400 to $450 per month. This is almost unheard of these days.
“I bought the Kliendale property, I have a duplex near the botanical gardens and I also have a single family rental,” she said. “My mission has always been to provide affordable housing. Above all, I was thinking of my friends and I [wouldn’t want to] seeing them end up pushing shopping carts, which happens in this incredibly competitive society we’ve built for ourselves.
Zill says it has raised rent by about $20 over the past five years and only raises the price after a tenant moves out.
“My tenants are on Social Security,” she said. “They get between $750; which is the bottom of the line for Social Security, maybe at $1,100 a month.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik says affordable housing and homelessness are top concerns brought to his Ward 6 office.
“The fastest growing homeless demographic we’re seeing right now is the elderly,” he said. “It’s a direct function of housing affordability.”
Tucson recently passed an ordinance preventing landlords from discriminating based on a person’s source of income, including Section 8 Housing and HUD-VASH.
“Owners have a legitimate right to earn a legitimate return on their investment,” Kozachik said. “It’s not 40% or 50% for a new carpet and a fresh coat of paint.”
However, Zill says landlords can still require potential tenants to prove they earn at least two and a half times the rent, which disqualifies most people on fixed incomes.
“When you buy and rent low-income property, you’re your brother’s keeper,” Zill said. “You have the opportunity to make the world a better place…at very little cost to yourself.”
Tucson’s new ordinance for landlords and property management companies has not yet gone into effect. Kozachik says the city waits for the adjournment of the state legislative session because state lawmakers sometimes pass bills that anticipate the city code.
Kozachik says rent control will need to be enacted at the state level. He says it’s really the landlords who can help fight the growing homelessness in our community.
“There is nothing in the law that requires rents to be increased,” he said. “You can fix the rent wherever you want. People choose to create homelessness in our elderly population.
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