Tucson, Arizona (October 2, 2023) -- Tucson is currently dealing with a multifaceted challenge related to homelessness and crime. The city has seen a significant increase in homelessness in recent years, significantly impacting property management and owners in the area. Rising crime rates, particularly property-related crimes, have added to property managers' challenges. This article will explore the issues property managers are experiencing, the repercussions, and our recommendations to address these challenges.
The Growing Homelessness Crisis
While the United States has managed to keep homelessness relatively stable despite the pandemic, Arizona has witnessed a staggering surge in homelessness in recent years, which has profoundly impacted our community.
As of January 24, 2023, Tucson had 2,209 people experiencing homelessness, whether in shelters, transitional housing, or living without shelter. This represents a 60% increase from 2018, with 829 more people affected every five years. The number of individuals without shelter surged 300% during the same period. Notably, the number of adults with mental illness has risen significantly, with a 38% increase in cases.
While certain subsets of the population experiencing homelessness, such as families, youth, and veterans, have made headway, the rate among single adults has continued to rise for the fifth consecutive year. Perhaps most concerning is the doubling number of chronically homeless individuals since 2018, with 77% being unsheltered.
The Escalating Crime Problem
One of the challenges faced by Tucson property managers is the rise in crime, which continues to have a lasting impact on businesses in the area. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, robbery increased by 20.65% from 2022 to 2023, with 55% of these incidents occurring in commercial settings. Property crimes, including theft and vandalism, continue to affect their daily operations. Property managers have had to shift their focus to fielding calls from tenants to contacting the Tucson Police Department, arranging additional security patrols, sending memos to tenants, and informing ownership of the latest activity.
Ashley Chiquete, a Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR property manager, says, “The pandemic has significantly impacted commercial real estate. Many properties are seeing an increase of encampments, which leads to clean up and additional security costs which have severely impacted the owners.”
Business owners find themselves diverting revenue towards preventative measures and cleanup efforts to combat theft and vandalism. Some report operating expenses spiking by as much as 15%. Linda Montes-Cota, a property manager at C&W | PICOR, shares one property she manages that has suffered from several organized theft rings. Other properties lose business due to intoxicated individuals loitering at their doorsteps, deterring potential customers. Small business owners are left to foot the bill for repairs, with some bearing the brunt of multiple windows deliberately shattered, Montes-Cota explains.
Guidance for Property Managers
The primary recommendation to other property managers is to be vigilant in visiting your properties, review security reports, check in with your tenants, and inquire about any concerning activity that needs to be monitored. Chiquete advises, “Share what is happening with your peers within your office and throughout your community; together, we can share ideas and move to a better resolution.” Additionally, the Tucson Crime Free Coalition is a great organization that provides valuable resources and opportunities for involvement.
Advice for Business Owners
Property owners are advised to take proactive measures to impede crime and other unwanted activity. This includes additional security tailored to your budget, whether through security personnel or mobile patrols. Furthermore, improving lighting, disabling unused electrical outlets, and trimming vegetation to discourage unwelcome guests are practical steps. However, the most crucial aspect is active involvement and support for local organizations dedicated to housing and rehabilitation services.
Coming Together as a Community
Ultimately, the community needs to come together to see impactful results. A thriving, healthy population contributes significantly to the economy, propelling Tucson forward on its path to growth.
The City of Tucson supports this cause by sending homeless advocates to encampments and offering shelter and essential resources. Notably, the City received a $50 million grant to bolster efforts in creating or refurbishing 550 units and establishing a support system for residents. Utilizing this grant, they recently acquired a hotel on Miracle Mile, with plans to convert it into a shelter and a 2.5-mile affordable neighborhood known as “Thrive in 05.” The City's CNI Housing Plan also promises to create three new affordable housing developments with vital services like case management, healthcare, and educational resources. The $50 million grant is a catalyst for leveraging federal funds, promising an additional $300 million to amplify these initiatives.
Council Member Lane Santa Cruz expresses her enthusiasm, saying, "I'm thrilled about this $50 million investment into Thrive in the 05, which acknowledges and honors the years of dedication from our community. This funding will pave the way for a thriving, safe, and sustainable community in historically marginalized neighborhoods.”
Arizona Crime Statistics. (n.d.). Violent crime 2023. Violent Crime 2023. https://azcrimestatistics.azdps.gov/tops/report/violent-crimes/tucson-pd/2023
City of Tucson awarded $50m HUD Neighborhood Implementation Grant. City of Tucson. (2023b, July 26). https://www.tucsonaz.gov/News-articles/City-of-Tucson-Awarded-50M-Choice-Neighborhood-Implementation-Grant-from-the-U.S.-Dept.-of-Housing-Urban-Development
City of Tucson. (2023a, May 15). 2023 point in time homeless count results. City of Tucson. https://www.tucsonaz.gov/Departments/Housing-and-Community-Development/HCD-News/2023-Point-in-Time-Homeless-Count-Results#:~:text=The%202023%20count%20identified%202%2C209,829%20people%20over%20five%20years.
Murillo, L. (2020, January 24). Digging deeper: Property crimes among the top crimes in Pima County. KVOA. https://www.kvoa.com/news/digging-deeper/digging-deeper-property-crimes-among-the-top-crimes-in-pima-county/article_f25ee4a6-e8cb-561a-b7b3-9297d5af4a27.html