On top of all that, supply chain disruptions are quickly increasing building costs.
“Last year, a new home build was $50,000 to $100,000 less than it is today, and that’s a lot of money,” Koch said.
She said she doesn’t see a bubble bursting, though the market could cool down over the next few years.
Koch said a seller can get dozens of offers in just a few days, and many buyers come with cash.
“It doesn’t look as great to the seller as the cash buyer that walks in and says I will buy for cash in seven days, and I will waive my appraisal and all inspections,” Koch said. “How does a first time homebuyer or any home buyer that needs a loan compete with that?”
Pima County Housing Program Manager Marcos Ysmael said the state, and especially the county, used to be known for low housing costs.
“We used to have a lot of what’s referred to as naturally occurring affordable housing,” Ysmael said.
That means the price was naturally low enough that the government didn’t really have to subsidize much.
A Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report this year showed that Arizona was one of seven states that lost more than 40% of its affordable housing since 2011.
Ysmael said that’s in large part because Arizona doesn’t have rent controls and prevents municipalities from enacting them, and that attracts out of state buyers to rental properties here.
Getting assistance is also easier said than done. Nationally, only about a quarter of people who are eligible for housing assistance gets it.
Federal Section 8 housing vouchers play a large role in keeping people in their homes outside of public housing. Right now, the city and the county each have almost 300 applicants on their wait lists.
The wait list for public housing in Tucson has nearly 10,000.
“In some cases, it takes months, and having to apply for an extension of time with a voucher program, so that you can find a unit,” Ysmael said.
He also said the average wait time is about two months.
The city and county are working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise the maximum home price for down payment assistance from $178,000 to possibly up to $235,000. The median sale price in Tucson is about $320,000.
“It’s a problem not just for low income families, it’s a problem for working families, and affecting more and more middle income families,” Ysmael said. “That’s how bad the shortage is.”
And he added that the areas with the highest increases in rent and home prices are the same areas where the city used to have the most affordable housing, shrinking the market even further for those who can least afford it.