Correction: An earlier version of this piece listed the author as Joe Galli with the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce. Neither Joe nor the Chamber was associated with this submission. The correct author is Tyler Denham.
Housing affordability has been the subject du jour for the past several months of Flagstaff City Council meetings, and for good cause – 49% of all households in Flagstaff are low-income and 45% are housing cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their gross monthly income towards housing.
Low-income families are being priced out, young professionals are unable to start families, and local businesses have trouble hiring and retaining employees. The city council members recognized the pressing nature of this issue when they passed the affordable housing emergency resolution in December 2020.
However, the discussions on housing affordability have been frustratingly shallow since then. Housing affordability is not going to improve unless Flagstaff’s housing supply increases to match demand, but the development needed to do that conflicts with the councilmembers’ other priorities on climate change, historic preservation and density. So far councilmembers have not addressed the obvious conflict.
To explain the conflict, it’s easiest to start with Flagstaff’s climate action and adaptation plan. Part of the plan’s goals is preservation of the surrounding ponderosa pine ecosystems and a drastic reduction in residents’ reliance on vehicles (the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions).