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Housing Condition Study Shows Improvements in Quality

February 16, 2006

MESA, Ariz. - The City of Phoenix recently released the results of a housing quality study conducted by Arizona State University. The study was a collaboration between the City of Phoenix, Call-A-Teen and ASU.

The city has completed housing quality studies approximately every 10 years since 1980. However, the city of Phoenix has grown exponentially since the last study was conducted in 1994, when Alvin Mushkatel participated in the first study lead by ASU. This year, he directed it. And, what a production it was.

"We added about 33 percent more census tracts in 2004, surveying a total of 157 tracts, with a majority of the new ones added in the northwest part of the city," said Mushkatel. Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county that are used over a long time so that statistical comparisons can be made from census to census.

The number of tracts studied may not seem like a lot for a city the size of Phoenix, until you look at it from the perspective of actual homes studied, which increased 50 percent from the 1994 study to 51,470. Needless to say he needed all the willing researchers he could get.

Mushkatel, an ASU applied biological sciences professor, recruited the help of faculty and students from the Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management, College of Design, School of Applied Arts & Sciences, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Public Programs. In addition, he hired 28 teenagers from the Call-A-Teen organization, and several personnel from various government agencies in the City of Phoenix.

The teams of faculty and students scoured several Phoenix neighborhoods conducting windshield tours, rating the quality of structural appearance, exposed piping for plumbing or out houses (yes, some still exist in the inner city), natural light, exposed electrical and the condition of the yard.

What were the findings?

"Not much change occurred in the housing quality between 1980 to 1994," said Mushkatel, "however, significant improvement was seen in the census tracts studied since 1994."

Among the study's findings:

  • In 2004, 60 percent of Phoenix housing was determined to be in good condition and in need of no repairs. The percentage in 1994 was just 20 percent.
  • In 1994, almost 80 percent of the housing units surveyed required minor, major or very expensive repair. In 2004, only about 40 percent fell into this category.
  • 90 percent of the census tracts surveyed recorded modest to significant improvements in the percentage of good housing in the 10 year period.

The overall improvement was described as "stunning", with just a few neighborhoods of concern. The study and the city credit many factors. Mushkatel notes, "the city's initiatives, public policy and market forces may have all contributed to the improvements in neighborhoods."

The study and the city credit the Neighborhood Initiative Areas (NIAs) with improving the conditions of homes in the five select neighborhoods. NIAs are neighborhoods that the city has made a long-term commitment to comprehensive and concentrated revitalization efforts. The program was created just before the 1994 study so this study captures the impact, which has been significant with a 55 percent improvement in "good" housing conditions.

"This study reinforces that programs and policies the city put in place are having a positive impact on the housing quality in the city of Phoenix," said Kate Krietor, acting deputy director, Neighborhood Services Department for the city. "What we can use this study for is to drill down on specific areas and programs to evaluate program effectiveness - what works and doesn't work - especially in neighborhoods that may have experienced a slight decline in quality."

Mushkatel agrees that the NIA program helps, but says it's not the only factor. "Studying housing quality over the past quarter of a century provides a wealth of data for us to use in understanding Phoenix neighborhoods. We hope that the city is also able to use the information for even better service delivery and policies."

For a copy of the complete study, contact the city at (602) 262-7344.