Shopping list

Housing tops shopping list for city’s $220 million pandemic fund | News

MMore than $93.5 million for housing — including $50 million to buy apartment complexes — tops the City of Phoenix administration’s spending suggestion list for its second round of American Recovery Plan Act Pandemic Relief Fund.

These proposals also include $7.5 million to buy trees for 5,000 homes in “eligible neighborhoods,” $13 million for free child care for a year for new city employees, and $500,000 for a public restroom pilot program at the Human Services Campus.

The shopping list totals $220.1 million, but the city council will have to trim it because the city will have $141 million in relief funds to spend in the fiscal year that begins May 1. July.

Phoenix was allocated $396 million under ARPA, passed by Congress early last year, with the money split in half for the current and future fiscal year.

Of the $198 million still to come, the Council has already committed $57 million to cover $29 million in premiums for city workers and the rest to cover workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19.

City Manager Jeffrey Barton unveiled options for spending the new money Jan. 11 during a council work review session in which members who attended — Councilor Sal DiCiccio was absent — raised even more suggestions.

For example, Vice Mayor Laura Pastor and Councilwoman Betty Guardado have asked for more money for school districts serving parts of the city outside of Ahwatukee than even the administration’s suggestion of spending $1 million on tutoring and GED programs at the downtown library and in very poor schools.

Guardado wants more money to buy N-95 masks for schools in his district while Pastor has suggested more tutors in his.

In education-related expenses, Barton also pointed to a possible $5 million for tuition assistance and an additional $5 million for digital workforce learning programs. Arizona State University and AZ Next programs. There was also an additional $2 million to help 200 people enrolled in a federal job training program get “target sector training” and $2 million proposed to help homeless people find full-time jobs and manage their finances.

But the overwhelming amount of money on the administration’s long list of possibilities involves $102 million in housing infrastructure and services.

This includes $50 million to buy multi-family complexes for affordable and workforce housing, $20 million to buy and operate shelters and transitional housing, $10 million to create a community land trust to acquire, develop and renovate housing and $10 million that would go to non-profit organizations to develop housing and human services projects.

An additional $2 million would fund an incentive program for landlords to accept more Section 8 certificates, $1 million to educate landlords and renters, $1.5 million for a “community planning effort for public housing community of Marcos de Niza to determine opportunities for redevelopment and revitalization; $3 million for Wi-Fi infrastructure and service in the Edison Eastlake community; and $1.5 million for Wi-Fi and tablets in senior and public housing complexes.

Barton said he asked City Services to come up with “things that are transformational in nature, things that will take us to the next level, things that are outside of our norm – put us in an awkward position, make us work very hard and be creative, but at the same time also be mindful of not placing an additional burden on the General Fund in the long term.

He told council members he was proposing the single largest item of spending – the $50 million to buy multi-family complexes – because “I’ve heard you time and time again talk about the lack of affordable housing options for Phoenix residents. I also heard you talk about the need for workforce housing. I also heard you talk about the need for transitional housing.

While describing the $50 million proposal as “out of the box and quite big,” Barton also pointed out that all of the items on his proposed spending list were there “just to start a conversation” as the Council begins to work on adopting a 2022-23 budget by July 1.

Barton also proposed that the Council consider $13 million to help new city employees pay up to $10,000 in child care costs for one year.

He said the city has 1,200 vacancies “where the midpoint of the salary range drops to 200% of the federal poverty level; for a family of four.

He noted that the Board last year approved $5 million for child care services for low-income workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and said the new child care proposal children of the city’s director of personnel “was a pretty ingenious idea…because our number of vacancies is increasing and it’s becoming more and more difficult to fill the city classifications (jobs).

That expense was in addition to $500,000 in free child care for a year for “people looking for work, including residents of Starfish Place,” a sex trafficking shelter.

Other spending proposals included $3 million more for arts organizations, which received $10 million in pandemic relief funds the city received from the federal government two years ago, 5.5 million for business owners in poor areas of the city to fix their storefronts and $8.5 million. to expand the Home Weatherization Assistance Program to help 400 households in low-income neighborhoods.

An additional $3.5 million has been put on the table for parks and recreation, including adaptive playground equipment, resurfacing of sports fields in eight unnamed parks, fitness stations and sports equipment. free fitness at eight no-name parks and special programs at eight no-name parks that don’t have community centers.

The two council members, Yassamin Ansari and Carlos Garcia, praised Barton for creating “big buckets” of housing money.

“We have a huge crisis outside of the social services campus,” Garcia said. “We all know that if you spent time there, it’s a tragedy. So I’m hoping that those allocations of $50 million or $20 million mostly will stay. I think that’s probably a minimum of what we need to address where we are.

The city’s director of housing, Titus Mathew, told members that his staff are looking at apartment complexes across the city that have 25 to 100 units and that the city could purchase them and designate them as affordable housing or for labor. He did not indicate what would distinguish them from each other.

“It makes sense to acquire the existing one because you can’t build it for less,” Mathew said.

There was no discussion of how maintaining the apartment complexes would impact future General Fund spending.

But Councilman Tom Waring said that between the growing homelessness crisis and Barton’s concern over the creation of new programs that would impact future General Fund spending obligations, Council faces decisions difficult ones that warrant more discussion as it begins to narrow the list of possible uses. pandemic relief money.

“For something like homelessness, where we’ve really struggled to find effective tools, it’s an opportunity…to explore what other places are doing that we’re not doing, that might have to be efficient. Because it’s not a problem that goes away,” Waring said.

Still, it was apparent that some board members weren’t done adding to that array of possibilities while others began pushing for particular items on Barton’s wish list.

As if that list wasn’t already long enough for the Council to wrestle with, the pastor wanted Barton to come back with a plan to spend more money on bridging the ‘digital divide’ and to buy more expensive N-95 masks. , COVID tests and protective equipment. on top of the millions of dollars the city has already spent on virus protection.

And Ansari wanted more than the suggested $1 million for tutoring services at Burton Barr Central Library so that tutors could be placed in other parts of town and “not have people travel so much for something for service like this”.