Joe Duhownik

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed a bipartisan effort to make first-time home buying more affordable by prohibiting municipalities from establishing size and structure requirements for new single-family homes.

The Democrat called House Bill 2570 — known as the Arizona Starter Homes Act — “a housing reform experiment with unclear outcomes,” in her Monday morning veto letter.

Sponsored by Republican state Representative Leo Biasiucci of Lake Havasu and supported by a bipartisan coalition of legislators from both urban and rural Arizona, the bill would have prevented municipalities from interfering with a home buyer’s right to choose the size, floor plan, design features, amenities, structure or interior/exterior design of a new home. That included minimum square footage, minimum lot sizes, minimum or maximum lot coverage and any aesthetic choices, including screening walls or fences.

The bill also would have prohibited cities from requiring homeowners associations or shared amenities that require homeowners associations to manage. It would only apply to new developments of at least five acres and not any pre-existing neighborhoods.

In a press conference last week, legislators in support of the bill said it’s the best way to ensure more affordable housing. If cities and towns impose fewer requirements and restrictions, they said, the cost of building will go down, and more people will build.

“The answer is to build more homes,” state Senator Anna Hernandez, a Democrat from Phoenix, said in the press conference. “We are standing here saying build more homes.”

Mayors and city council members from across the state, as well as the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, urged Hobbs not to sign the bill. They said the action would take too much power away from the levels of government closest to the people.

“They may say city [government] is the closest to the people,” Hernandez said. “But I’m knocking on the same doors the city council is knocking on.”

She said no city in the last five years has adequately responded to trends in the housing market that her constituents have asked her to address. The bill would have done that, she said, but instead Hobbs used her veto stamp for the second time this year.

“The bill has unexplored, unintended consequences that are of great concern,” she wrote in her veto letter.

The U.S. Department of Defense wrote a letter to Hobbs last week requesting her veto. The department was concerned that putting dense development in and near potential accident zones in proximity to military installations would create risk both for homeowners and for military operations.

The Professional Firefighters Association of Arizona also requested that Hobbs veto the bill, reasoning that it could lead to the creation of neighborhoods without adequate public safety infrastructure.

For example, the association said, communities without regulated lot sizes may not leave enough space for emergency vehicles. Further, homeowners associations can help with managing fire outbreaks and ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations. Shared amenities are often used as evacuation centers or emergency rendezvous points.

“Hundreds of Arizonans and community leaders from across the state have contacted my office about this legislation, with over 90% requesting a veto,” Hobbs wrote. “Over forty mayors and city council members — Democrats and Republicans from Nogales to Superior to Tucson to Yuma, and every other corner of our state — have expressed concerns about the impacts on infrastructure, water consumption, land use planning, lack of affordability guarantees and potential legal consequences.”

Senate President Warren Petersen, a Republican from Gilbert, said affordability is simple.

“It’s supply and demand,” Petersen said at the press conference. “More supply lowers the price.”

State Representative Analise Ortiz, a Democrat from Phoenix, responded to Hobbs in an Arizona House Democrats press release.

“Status quo is clearly not working, and believing that things will change without policies like the Arizona Starter Homes Act is, at best, wishful thinking,” Ortiz said in a statement. “I don’t know what the governor’s plan is for housing. But I do hope that whatever she does have planned includes policies to expand the state’s inventory of modest, starter homes, and homes on small lots — homes that our parents and grandparents purchased many years ago that allowed them to build generational wealth, lay roots in their communities and break the cycles of poverty."

In her letter, Hobbs pointed to other proposals moving through the legislature, including measures to allow backyard casitas across the state, increase middle housing options and streamline local approval processes.

“I will continue to champion policies and programs to bring down housing costs for Arizonans and I look forward to working to make that happen,” Hobbs wrote.

Though supported by both Democrats and Republicans, the bill faced a close vote in both bodies of the legislature. It received a 33-26 vote in the House in February and a 16-13 vote in the Senate in March.

Bill sponsor Biasiucci didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.