Tucson veterans face housing crisis, fewer affordable choices | Government and politics

Pima County veterans are finding fewer rental options here, and about 150 were moved out last year because they couldn’t afford where they lived.

He’s not a trend veteran that Dennis Hoban wants to join.

Hoban, 75, lives at The Place at Wilmot North, a 55-plus compound that includes veterans using federal housing vouchers under the Veterans Supportive Housing Program. HUD-VASH, as it is commonly known, combines rental assistance with case management to help veterans stay housed.

Hoban, an army veteran, has lived in his apartment for five years and doesn’t want to move. However, with his monthly rent dropping from $815 to $1,095 in June, he’s not sure he’ll be able to stay. A year ago, his rent was $742 a month.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development cap for a one-bedroom apartment in Tucson is currently $913 per month. Renters using HUD-VASH vouchers typically pay about 30% of their gross monthly income for rent, and the rest is subsidized.

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“The only way I can continue to live here is for the housing authority to grant me a waiver and allow me to pay the excess, which I can do,” Hoban said. “It will be a big ordeal, but I could do it, and it would be better than having to move to an area where there is a dire shortage of affordable housing.”

Unfortunately, HUD is not allowing its voucher holders to pay the difference, said Terry Galligan, the city’s assistant director for housing and community development. Instead, she said the city usually tries to get landlords to adjust rent.

Approximately 448 Tucson-area veterans use these federal vouchers out of a total of 636 available. Tucson’s current average monthly HUD-VASH payment is $230,528.

The Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System has approximately 53 employees who help veterans find and maintain housing. It is not clear if some of the recently displaced veterans have all found new places to live, or if some have become homeless.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik said people, including veterans, call his office every week about rising rents. A number of them are afraid that he will repeat their names to landlords and landlords because they fear their rent will go up even more for speaking up.

The Arizona Daily Star contacted seven people at the Hoban compound, but only three allowed their names to be published because they feared reprisals.

Kozachik said most of the people he hears about live in rental properties owned by companies not based in Tucson, or even Arizona. He failed to get them to ease the rent increases.

“I tell them, ‘I understand you have the right to raise rents, but you’re evicting old people, you’re evicting veterans, you’re evicting people with disabilities,'” he said. “These are people who live in the only places they can afford.”

MC Residential Communities owns the apartments where Hoban lives, as well as 11 other complexes in Tucson as well as locations in Phoenix and Flagstaff. The company also has rental locations in Texas and Oklahoma. Messages and emails left with the company on Friday have not been returned.

Hoban said some of his neighbors aren’t facing the same rent increases, which makes him wonder if the goal is to phase out tenants who receive assistance.

This is what Donald Lee Allen fears.

Allen is also a veteran of the complex. In September, it will be six years since he moved in. He can’t wait to see if his rent will also go up. He currently pays $360 for his rent, which is a third of his income.

“It’s one of the nicest places in town,” he says. “I looked around, and there’s nothing else there.”

Allen, 69, served in the military and, due to hip problems, has to use a walker to get around.

Money is tight enough already, he says. He had to cancel his Wi-Fi services because his monthly rate kept going up.

“I go to bed at night wondering where I’m going to be in the future,” he said. “Where am I going to go if I can’t afford it here?”

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or

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