Challenges in finding affordable housing in Tucson

Housing grants

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Tucson public housing agencies nearly $3 million dollars to spend towards large-scale improvements like roof repairs or appliance replacements.

While the improvements are welcomed news to current residents, many are still waiting to find their affordable housing.

“We have people with a voucher in hand, but they’re not able to find an apartment that’s available,” said Terry Galligan, deputy director of Tucson’s Housing and Community Development.

Galligan said about 500 people are on the Section 8 waitlist and expects a few more thousand to be added when applications open in the next month.

“We spent about two years searching for affordable housing,” said Shantrell Barnes, a mother of five who searched for housing in Tucson.

“Actually ending up homeless at one point because housing just wasn’t affordable, and we couldn’t find assistance to keep our housing,” Barnes said.

She waited four years to get approved for Section 8 housing, but still faced obstacles.

“All the Section 8 apartments are on waiting lists,” she said. “It’s just really, really rough out here. Luckily I had a few family and friends who allowed us to stay.”

In September she finally found a stable place for her family to call home. COVID-19 has only escalated the housing issue. Local agencies typically see people moving out and moving in more often, but now say people are staying in place.

“Which is good because we don’t want them moving in the middle of a pandemic,” Galligan said. “It’s a lot harder right now for people to find a unit. That’s one of the biggest obstacles.”

Combined, the City of Tucson and Pima County have received more than $31 million for rental and utility assistance from the treasury department. The agencies hope to start going through applications within the next couple weeks.

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