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In the Phoenix area, a tenant can be thrown out as little as two weeks after a missed rental payment.
William Flannigan and Carly Henry, Arizona Republic

In 1996, Maricopa ordered County Courts 5,552 evictions. The same courts dealt with 22,231 evictions in 2016. (Photo: Alden Woods / Republic)

For a decade now, an affordable housing shortage has destroyed Arizona's poor and middle-class households. A lawyer called it "the perfect storm". It has already led to rapid emission cuts, a delayed social security net and a spike in homelessness.

And it gets worse.

Arizona's rental homes can now meet only a quarter of the state's needs, according to an annual report released on Thursday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The state now has only 25 affordable and available rental units for every 100 extremely low-income rental houses.

There is a slight decline from last year, when Arizona had 26 units for every 100 poor households.

Nationwide, this year's number is 37 units.

The term "extremely low income" applies to all households living below the poverty line or earning less than 30 percent of their area's median income. This group includes mostly elderly, disabled and working poor.

Only two states – neighboring Nevada and California – have a greater shortage.

"I think critical mass has been hit," Joan Serviss, Arizona Housing Coalition, said. "These are just the unintended consequences of not being aware of decisions made when we were in a crisis situation. And now I think we're heading for another crisis."

The affordable housing crisis has cried into every American society, but the impact has been particularly devastating west of the Rockies. (Photo: National Low Income Housing Coalition)

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For decades since the Great Recession, Arizona once has ample supply of cheap housing has dried up. Budget deficiency has forced the state to slash financing for rental assistance. Withdrawal and homework prevention programs turned off. Other programs built year-long waiting lists, driven by a sudden, overwhelming demand.

Now, the state's economy has been largely restored. But its stock of affordable housing continues to shrink.

The crisis has coalesced around the state's largest cities. Both Phoenix and Tucson are now among the nation's most difficult metropolitan areas where to be poor and need a place to live: Tucson offers 24 units per 100 extremely low-income holders. The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area, as it is called in the report, has only 21 units.

That makes Phoenix the tenth tight rental market in America.

Like most broad issues, Arizona's housing shortage has hit its poorest inhabitants most difficult. The report found that 78 percent of Aria's poorest households spend more than half of their income on housing. It is a state of living NLIHC calls a "serious cost of housing."

The crisis of affordable housing has swept across every American society. But the effects of the deficiency have particularly damaged the Southwest, where explosive population growth and rapid real estate development have eroded the offer of cheap housing.

"Even where the supply is the best, there is still a great shortage," leader NLIHC's research director Andrew Aurand said in a press call. "And I also want to mention that neither major metropolitan areas have sufficient supplies, either."

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A map published in the NLIHC report, colors each state in shades of yellow, orange and red, depending on how severe the deficiency is. On the map, most of Central America is shaded by a golden yellow. The east coast is something that burns orange.

The entire west coast is painted red.

Six of the country's eight worst states for poor tenants are located west of the Rocky Mountains, the report said. Nevada has the largest shortage of 19 rental homes per 100 households. California is second, with 22.

Arizona is third.

Local advocates feel an opportunity to limit the growth of the shortage. They circled in 2019 as a long-awaited opportunity to address the legislators' attention and reverse after-fall savings.

Lawmakers reacted with a flurry of bills. This session, the Arizona legislature, has considered several bills that would create a state-funded eviction prevention program, restore the state's housing fund and provide a separate fund to provide rental assistance for people with severe mental illness.

Reach reporter Alden Woods at awoods@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8829. Follow him on Twitter @ ac_woods .

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