COVID-19, booming housing and rental market mean hard times for some Arizonans

The effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the booming housing and home rental market in the Phoenix area, meant that some Arizonans are feeling the negative impact.

Family forced to move due to big rent hike

While the booming housing market in the Phoenix area is welcome news for people looking to sell, it's not so much for those wanting to buy, as well as renters who are dealing with landlords who raise the rental price each year.

One family who moved to Arizona from Indiana said they were forced to move to a new town, when their rent was set to go up almost $900.

"It's going to be hard, but I just wish the government would step in and do more. This inflation is ridiculous," said Shekinah King.

King moved with her three children to Arizona a few years ago to be close to family and have more job opportunities. Since then, however, they have been moving around looking for more affordable rent, as prices keep rising.

"I looked at Buckeye, Apache. I looked everywhere. San Tan was not at the top of my list because it's just too far," said King.

First, the family lived in Mesa. After their townhouse’s rent went up, they packed up and moved to Gilbert. Then, they were been forced to move even further, to San Tan Valley, just to find a place they could afford.

"Everyone was saying you have to make three times, four times the rent, and I'm like, ‘how, when you guys have doubled the rent and the pay is still the same?'" said King. "Who can afford this?"

According to Apartment List, year-over-year rent growth across the country currently stands at a record setting 17.8%, and prices are expected to increase into the typically busy periods of spring and summer.

In Arizona, four cities ranked in the top ten, in terms of cities with the fastest growing rents:

  • Scottsdale (3, with 31% rent increase)
  • Mesa (5)
  • Phoenix (8)
  • Glendale (9)

"I even looked at having a second job, but I'd have to be at home because San Tan is way too far to have a second job and be outside of the home, because I want to be within close proximity of my children in case anything happened," said King.

While there are some housing resources out there for people, those options are a lot smaller for people who make just enough money to disqualify.

Assistance on the way for struggling homeowners

Many people have faced financial hardship since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and that includes homeowners who have struggled to pay their bills and their mortgages, but the Arizona Department of Housing is launching a new program to help.

"I have never been in this position where I was worried about losing my place or having my electric shut off," said Terry Launders.

Launders, a Tucson homeowner, has lived in her home for 16 years, and the pandemic has hit her hard. She was laid off from her job at the beginning of the pandemic, and as a result, she fell behind on her property taxes, as well as her electricity bills.

"I couldn't catch up the past due amount to stop looming over me," said Launder.

After trying everything, she found the Homeowner Assistance Fund. The Arizona Department of Housing was awarded $197 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to distribute funds to homeowners who are behind on their mortgages, utilities, taxes insurance, internet service or HOA fees as a result of COVID-19.

This is how Launders was finally able to get back on her feet.

"Not only did they pay my electric bill, but the lady says, 'Terry, we could pay three months forward for you,'" said Terry. "It worked out for me. It was such a relief."

The ADOH can make up to $25,000 in relief payments.

Homeowner Assistance Fund - Arizona Department of Housing

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