While We Focus on Traffic, Sedona’s Housing Crisis Worsens



May 21, 2021

dscf6800sedonalitessunriseA peek at Next Door and other locally-focused websites would make you think Sedona has only one major problem – traffic.  But lack of housing, “Sedona’s other crisis,” is forcing low- and median-income workers out of town, making it harder for our recovering businesses to get up to full staffing levels.

Lack of housing means more traffic, lower QOL and massive labor shortage  

With just 15% of Sedona’s workforce  residing in the city, the vast majority commute miles to work. Their costs go up, quality of life goes down and traffic worsens. Diminishing affordability in the greater Verde Valley is making the area increasingly unaffordable for working families.  This lack of housing, coupled with expanded federal unemployment benefits through September, translates into a massive local labor shortage.

Have you tried to eat at one of your favorite restaurants recently only to find its operating hours reduced or its doors temporarily closed?  The reason is almost always lack of staff.  What strange times we find ourselves in – from businesses closing due to COVID to some having difficulty staying open due to a lack of workers.

This labor shortage and the related unaffordability of housing will worsen as the region adds an estimated 4,200 jobs in the next ten years and population grows by a projected 13,000.

Numbers Prove the Point

 May 17, city officials and community leaders from Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale, and Jerome met to review the newly released Verde Valley Housing Needs Assessment.  The results are eye-opening:

> 5% of Sedonans are ‘cost-burdened,’ defined by the federal government as paying more than 30% of their income for housing.
> The report states 22.7% of Sedona households are ‘extremely’ cost burdened, paying more than 50% of the income to cover housing costs.
> Apartments, usually the most affordable type of housing, make up just 4.7% of Sedona’s housing inventory, illustrating the difficulty our workforce, such as teachers, firefighters and police officers, have finding housing in Sedona.
>The median sales price for single family homes in the Sedona area for first quarter 2021 is $827,550, up 44% from the first quarter of last year.

Short Term Rentals: The Problem That Keeps on Giving

With a home purchase out of reach for so many,  most workers  must focus  on renting.  However, the already-short supply of long-term rentals is further diminished by conversion to short term rentals (STRs) catering to visitors.  Some newly-purchased homes are also being converted to STRs.

The Negative Social Impacts are Far Reaching

Lack of housing makes us less attractive to those who want a home where they can live, work, play and raise a family – the future of our community, in other words.  A labor shortage is one predictable outcome. So is failure to attract young talent and declining school enrollment. The rise in the regional median age from 46.8 a decade ago to 52.6 supports this.

SCC&TB is ready to do our part to convene the discussion and champion solutions. The private sector must also get involved, and the Sedona Lodging Council is already engaging. At last week’s Lodging Council meeting, the ten hoteliers present were short 220 employees among them. This is a crisis.

As Sedona moves forward on the Sustainable Tourism Plan, let’s dedicate some community passion to addressing this major challenge – HOUSING.

-Candace Carr Strauss,