TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — What does progress on affordable housing look like in Southern Arizona?
On the Pascua Yaqui Tribe's land, construction crews are already laying the foundation for a new neighborhood made up of several types of affordable homes.
The tribe’s housing department envisions a modern look that blends into the landscape. More than that, builders and stakeholders said they want to meet the needs of tribal families looking for both stability and a connection to their culture.
KGUN 9 visited the project site to check out the homes and talked to the housing team who got tribal elders on board to address a growing demand from the community.
Standing on the future paved street, Rolando Jaimez said he's excited to see what a fully built neighborhood will add to the tribe.
Already, the frames and designs stand in stark contrast to the row of one-story houses built years ago right across the street.
Jaimez, the tribe's deputy director of housing, said the community was stunned when they saw the final design choice for the homes. "We've always built houses that are very basic, again, trying to maximize the use of the money-limited funds that we have," he said.
Keith Gregory, Jaimez's boss and director of housing for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, said the reaction made sense because the demand from families looking for affordable housing is *still significant.
His department manages 700 units, but over a thousand members are still on a waiting list. "These are families with children or seniors," Gregory said. "These are people who have waited a long time because the problem is, just like everywhere else, we don't have the inventory."
The change isn’t just in the architecture. Gregory said the tribe applied for low-income housing tax credits through the Arizona Department of Housing. The roughly $8.3 million award helped the tribe bring other private investors on board like Redstone Equity and American Express.
In all, Gregory said the project's estimated cost is just over $10 million. "The tax credits probably covered about 90% of the development costs and the last one 10% was the tribe," he said.
What might this investment return? On our visit to the planned neighborhood, Jaimez said phase one was well underway, with the goal of making 50 single-family homes.
Phase two will introduce the variety of two, three-and-four-bedroom townhomes. Gregory says they asked contractors to apply the modern styling philosophy for all the buildings, including the angled roofs.
"There's no reason just because we're building affordable housing doesn't mean that it needs to be unattractive doesn't mean that it needs to be lesser housing," Gregory said.
Other things making these homes stand out: Gregory says they built them keeping interior space in mind so multi-generational families can live comfortably and also benefit from installed energy-saving features.
Once the doors are ready to open, tribal families living in the homes will rent the units but current tax credit regulations lay out a path for them to one day become homeowners. Gregory said families who rent for 15 years can pay a reduced rate to buy the homes.
"Creating equity for people, creating affordable housing — that generational wealth building, that's what we're trying to do here," Gregory said. "These developments are critical to our ability to help these families to have stable safe housing and to create the community that I think we want as an organization."
As for when the first families will move in, Jaimez said the housing department thinks 20 of the first-phase houses will be ready by May. He said the goal is to have Phase One and Two fully done by October, and that a third phase would signal the building of a multi-story apartment building on tribal land.
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