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Scottsdale City Council debates virtues of affordable housing data points

Photo of an affordable housing construction site in Phoenix
According to a housing and income analysis presented by the Matrix Design Group, the median family income of a family in Scottsdale is above $122,000; meanwhile, the surrounding Phoenix metropolitan area is about $78,000, which is creating a gap between single-family housing and those who can afford it. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/

Scottsdale affordable housing takes center stage at City Hall

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The affordable housing debate has come to Scottsdale City Hall.

In the evening hours of Monday, Nov. 14, Scottsdale City Council hosted an hour-long discussion and presentation regarding a comprehensive report provided by the Matrix Design Group meant to illustrate in reality the state of the municipal housing market.

“We were retained in December 2021 to conduct the analysis and our goal is to improve understanding of the distribution and categorization of the occupied housing stock,” said Christian Caron, senior research analyst at the Matrix Design Group.

Mr. Caron explained to City Council the primary source of data comes from the 2020 American Community Survey — a product of the United States census — comparing the city of Scottsdale to six similar communities in terms of affordability and housing. They were:

  • Cherry Creek, Colorado
  • Laguna Beach, California
  • Pasadena, California
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Walnut Creek, California

In addition to the ACS survey, Mr. Caron explains, his firm used Redfin and Housing and Urban Development data but only one-year of COVID-era information was available at the time of the presentation.

“All of this data is 2020?” Scottsdale Councilwoman Betty Janik asked following the initial download at City Hall last night. “Because a lot has certainly shifted in the last two years. The data is nice, but it is dated.”

Mr. Caron offered the extensive housing analysis reveals price points of where housing surpluses and deficit exists relevant to different income subsets of the overall Scottsdale marketplace

“What we did was —- the core of the analysis —- we used ACS data on household income and housing units and a combination of HUD estimates for the median family income,” he explained. “We defined the differences between the supply-and-demand equation at various income tiers as a percentage of median family income. The purpose of this analysis is to reveal price points of where there exists surplus and deficits of housing.”

The analysis presented by Mr. Caron qualified each data point in housing, which are:

  • Affordable
  • Workforce
  • Market Rate
  • Luxury

Mr. Caron explained through analysis it is determined, based on primarily 2020 data, the median family income of a family in Scottsdale is above $122,000 meanwhile the surrounding Phoenix metropolitan area is just about $78,000.

“Of the homes that are owned, 83% are market rate or luxury homes,” he said of macroeconomic numbers in Scottsdale. “What this essentially means is 83% of homes owned in Scottsdale are not affordable for people making less than $122,000 in the Phoenix MSA. What this implies is you have a sever shortage of affordable and workforce housing.”

In general terms, data points suggest, is a glut of market rate and luxury single-family homes for sale; meanwhile, tens of thousands of units are needed in Scottsdale to meet the reported income-to-housing “gaps,” Mr. Caron reported to City Council.

Those numbers are:


Mr. Caron told City Council numbers show there is surplus of market rate and luxury properties meanwhile affordable and workforce housing tallies are short.

“In total, across the first four tiers from affordable to workforce ranges you have 33,000 households that can’t afford to live there,” he said. “On the other side you have a surplus of homes in the market rate or luxury housing tiers. Scottsdale is significantly less affordable to families living just outside of the city borders.”

How involved should Scottsdale
City Hall be in affordable housing?

Scottsdale Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield says she is concerned about the underlying themes emerging at City Hall regarding the who should live where.

“I don’t think it should be the job of the city to do social engineering —- who should live here, who should here and who should live there,” she said during the public hearing, saying the free market ought to determine what single-family housing is available. “Those are free enterprise choices people make freely … that is their business and they should be able to make that decision. I think there is a line here where freedoms of marketplace and freedom of choice overrides social engineering.”

A major point of fact for members of Scottsdale City Council? In all, 73% of all residential properties are single-family, owner occupied dwellings; 20% of housing stock are apartment; and the final 7% are classified as “condominiums.”

“I think that is a really interesting data point because we get asked that question all the time,” said Scottsdale Councilwoman Tammy Caputi during the pubic hearing. “Our real problem is we are not able to attract the folks who want to live here. We can afford this city but what are we doing to attract young families?”

Mr. Caron explained certain ZIP codes in Scottsdale — typically in the northern region of the municipality — have virtually zero multifamily housing meanwhile the majority of apartments are in the southern region of the municipality.

“What is the right mix among those income ranges of housing?” Scottsdale Councilwoman Linda Milhaven asked. “The people who live here can generally afford to live here and there are people who can afford to in a more expensive home but choose to live more modestly.”

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