Nonprofit aims for SkySong affordable housing - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Nonprofit aims for SkySong affordable housing

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Posted: Friday, September 29, 2006 10:39 am | Updated: 2:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The newest neighbor to SkySong, billed as a hightech research park that will help revitalize south Scottsdale, is a nonprofit group that plans to use tax dollars to help build rentcontrolled housing.

Community Services of Arizona purchased 12 apartment units on three Belleview Street parcels last month in addition to the nine units it has owned since 1994. The apartments are on SkySong’s southern border.

The nonprofit is negotiating with other landowners in the hope of acquiring more properties on the north side of the street, said CSA president Brian Swanton.

The moves show there is interest in revitalizing the aging apartments in anticipation of SkySong. But the plan may run counter to a longtime effort by Scottsdale and the Arizona State University Foundation to sell the research park as a way to spur nearby private investment.

City Councilman Jim Lane said he was not familiar with CSA’s plans, but has some concerns.

“Is south Scottsdale the area denoted where we put in subsidized offices and housing?” Lane asked.

“That was my fear from the beginning,” he said. “I would hope not to have this kind of movement towards this.”

Lisa Haskell, a south Scottsdale activist, said there needs to be a public discussion about affordable housing in the area.

“I think it leaves folks with the perception something is being slipped through,” Haskell said. “People deserve to know more about the topic no matter how hot a topic affordable housing is.”

The city is spending up to $130 million over time, including interest, for land and infrastructure at SkySong.

Since 2002, Scottsdale has allocated more than $2.5 million in federal dollars to the Chandler-based nonprofit through Community Development Block Grants and other Housing and Urban Development programs. In addition, the city has kicked in $300,000 in General Fund money to help CSA acquire and maintain properties for families living below the area median income. The 2006-07 allocation of $825,000 in federal money was the largest single year allocation to date.

Swanton, who acknowledged that he was hoping the plan would stay under the radar for now, said it complements SkySong.

“What we’re working on is a plan for replacing obsolete housing with higher-quality housing that meets the needs of working families,” said Swanton, who was Scottsdale’s housing development manager from 1997 to 2001. “The private market has driven that street into the ground. A nonprofit with a good solid development approach would be a solution there.”

By using the federal dollars for purchase, the units come with restrictions including rent caps. The units are not Section 8 or public housing. But 90 percent of its residents must earn less than 60 percent of the median income — $36,000 for a family of four, said Mark Bethel, Scottsdale community assistance manager.

For now, Swanton said the plan is to continue renting the apartments with a three-year goal of removing them and building new ones. Swanton said some of the new units could have ownership options for working families that are approaching 80 percent of the median income.

SkySong spokeswoman Michele Irwin said the project developers were not aware of CSA’s purchase or plans, but she said that type of housing is not an issue and should not have any impact on the success of the 1.2 million-squarefoot project.

Mayor Mary Manross said she sees this purchase as a positive one for the area.

“I am confident whatever is built there will complement SkySong and our city should try to encourage that,” Manross said.

Low-income rental units line Belleview Street. A few are well-maintained, but many are run-down with empty beer bottles in front yards and makeshift curtains. At the corner of Scottsdale Road and Belleview is Skin Cabaret, which recently was successful in overturning tougher council-imposed regulations that they said would put them out of business. City leaders have denied allegations by critics that Skin’s proximity to SkySong had any impact on its desire to further regulate the business.

Of the 24 residential properties on Belleview Street, three are owned by nonprofit organizations — CSA, Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation and Mercy Properties. Seven of the street’s 13 other property owners — primarily out-of-state landlords — have purchased their properties since SkySong was announced in May 2004, with some owning more than one property.

There have been 13 code violation citations issued on the block between Scottsdale Road and 74th Street since April. In the same time period, there have been 15 reported serious crimes, including auto theft, robbery, burglary from vehicles and residences and attempted auto theft, according to city records.

The situation on Belleview has Nancy Cantor, a south Scottsdale activist and city Housing Board member, happy with CSA’s involvement.

“If they come in with an affordable option and maintain the property, I don’t see how that can become a negative,” Cantor said.

CSA has owned properties in Scottsdale for the past 10 years, primarily in the Holiday Park area between 64th and 68th streets, and Thomas to Osborn roads.

Swanton plans to make a presentation to the city’s Human Services Commission later this year.

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