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Workers are struggling to afford housing

The picturesque town of Sedona, with its vibrant red rocks and scenic trailheads, has become a hotbed for tourists, leading to a boost in short-term rentals, while “decreasing housing availability for locals,” according to a council agenda item cited by the Washington Post.

The average home is valued at nearly $945,000, per Zillow, and a 2020 housing assessment estimated the city was short about 1,260 affordable housing units.

"There is no available housing in the Verde Valley, it's totally limited," councilwoman Jessica Williamson told news station 12News

A public outreach effort found dozens of people who live in their vehicles and work in Sedona were interested in the city’s new program. They said they worked at Whole Foods, Safeway, a wood-fired pizza restaurant, a juice shop, a spa and a coffeehouse, among others, reports the Post.

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Safe zone for sleeping

A space at the vacant Cultural Park, which was once a performance venue before going largely unused for two decades, per the Republic, has been selected as the program site.

The safe zone would include amenities such as showers, portable restrooms and trash bins, accommodating up to 40 vehicles. Occupiers will be expected to vacate the area during the day. The site is to be managed by the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition.

Program participants must provide vehicle registration, proof of insurance and either proof of employment in Sedona or their enrollment in a local school, according to the Post.

The plan faces backlash

Sedona’s safe parking plan has been approved for a two-year period, funded by the Arizona Department of Housing, reports the Republic. City leaders say this initiative will provide a temporary solution until a 30-unit workforce housing project on Shelby Drive is completed in 2026.

However, some locals have expressed concerns regarding the location of the program’s parking lot, vetting of participants, whether there could be issues with surrounding neighbors and potentially losing out on a space that could otherwise be used as an entertainment venue and boost the local economy.

A website launched by the program’s opponents says residents have submitted over 1,000 signatures — well over the minimum needed for a referendum to allow residents to decide if the program should be permitted.

“The City’s proposal for a homeless car camp at Cultural Park does nothing to address the true problem of assisting homeless workers to have a permanent, affordable INDOOR place to live,” according to the site. “Their approach is not caring, it is not humane.”

Still, others say they understand the need for a safe space, especially as city leaders say they’re out of options.

“These are people who work in our town and we all depend on them. We must support them. Denying this program will not make our homeless population go away,” resident Joanne L. Makielski wrote to council members, per the Post. “Let’s give them a ray of hope.”

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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