TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Affordable housing has been a hot topic in Tusayan since before the community incorporated. Since 2010, the town has been working on plans to provide its residents with affordable housing.
On March 4, the Kaibab National Forest announced that the town's application for road easements across Forest Service land to property the town planned to develop for housing had been returned. The announcement shocked town officials. Afterward they said they were not giving up.
Because housing in Tusayan is limited, the town created a housing authority, and on May 5, a final draft of the Housing Authority Guidelines was passed unanimously by members of the town council, moving the town one step closer to achieving its goal for future housing.
"The guidelines are the meat and potatoes, they are the lynch pin to housing," said Eric Duthie, Tusayan town manager. "It identifies who's eligible, how to become eligible, how to qualify, price ranges, income levels...all those are spelled out in the guidelines."
According to the document, the general goal of the guidelines is 'to provide affordable housing for persons who lie within the boundaries of the town of Tusayan and meet the employment requirements set forth in the guidelines,' which is accomplished through restricting occupancy and sale of the housing units covered by the guidelines to qualified households.'
"We did our best to make sure the documents and guidelines set forth in the housing authority provide an opportunity for those that really need a home," said Craig Sanderson, mayor of Tusayan. "It's not for somebody to come up and have a vacation home. It's not for vacation rental properties... we want opportunities for our community that don't exist."
The Housing Authority of the Town of Tusayan (HATT) outlines provisions that apply to the lack of employee housing in the town.
"One of the things we looked at is here in Tusayan when you lose your job, you lose your home. You have nowhere to go, you're out of here. So we concluded that, if you are disabled, retire, you have your home, and there is some criteria in that, but if you put in your dues we're going to give you the ability to stay in your home," Sanderson said.
Additionally, one member per household must be a resident and meet the employment criteria or be disabled and previously met employment guidelines or have been a resident within town boundaries or retired after meeting employment criteria for at least 10 consecutive years.
Income parameters are set at a minimum of $12,400 and maximum of $250,000 in gross income.
Sanderson said the authority is the same as federal housing authorities but the council decided not to follow the maximum gross income requirements.
"We intentionally are not doing federal guidelines because we recognize we are very unique," he said. "If you are not in the poverty wages, we want to make sure you have an opportunity as well."
Priority for housing will be given first to Tusayan residents (living and working in the town for at least five years), followed by Tusayan employees (working in Tusayan for at least two years), then to those who work in Tusayan but do not live in Tusayan (qualified households satisfying employment requirement in Tusayan but are not residents of Tusayan... Grand Canyon Village and Valle) and finally to individuals making their home within the boundaries of Grand Canyon School District (concessionaires and NPS employees). In the case there is an equal number of qualified applicants a lottery can be conducted by the housing authority.
The Housing Authority Guidelines is considered a 'living document' and Duthie said changes will be made as deemed necessary by the housing authority. He said the guidelines were created together with the housing authority establishment and both were established through consultation with a number of attorneys.
Town council members, are the authority for the housing authority, which also includes an executive director who at this time is town manager.
Council members are not eligible to purchase homes at the planned development, while they sit on the council.
"This document is one step further in making a reality of changing the community and the lives of those in the community by having the opportunity to own a home," Sanderson said. "You might have heard the term 'affordable housing' we use that kind of as a catch all but really it's about housing. We still have a long way to go to get it done. We've come a long way and this is another step in that."
More information and to view the complete document is available at the town's website at Tusayan-az.gov.