Hilo Tempe apartments’ plan to ban tenants under 21 raises legal concerns

Law | 7 Dec, 2019 |

The Hilo Tempe apartments, a planned development located on the corner of Mill Avenue and Seventh Street, has proposed to restrict renters under the age of 21. Concerns have been raised about whether or not the age limit will interfere with Tempe’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance, approved in 2014, prohibits businesses and individuals from discriminating based on age, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, color, race, national origin, U.S. military veteran status, and religion.

The ordinance does provide exceptions for 55 and over communities.

Despite the restriction against age-based discrimination, excluding the exception for seniors, the Hilo Tempe plans to enforce a 21-and-over age limit for tenants.

LeVon Lamy, the housing and revitalization manager for the City of Tempe, predicts that the 11-story apartment tower will apply for a waiver from the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity as well as the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

“If that waiver was approved then, you know, the fair housing rules don’t necessarily apply so much. The waiver allows you to have these age-restricted communities within the guidelines.”

While the City of Tempe continues to develop and expand, more affordable housing is needed to accommodate those moving into the city — and the Hilo Tempe complex offers a unique solution.

A little under half of the units will be rented out as co-living spaces, meaning that residents will have the option to lease out a private bedroom and bathroom but share a kitchen.

This concept allows for more affordable housing as the rent gets divided between tenants.

However, with the apartment’s age restrictions, the Hilo Tempe is aimed more towards young, working adults rather than college students.

With apartment rents on the rise in Tempe, providing affordable housing for everyone is important to the city. 

“Having representation from all of the ages, all socioeconomic statuses, are important to increasing the breadth of the type and richness of the type of city that we have,” said Jonae Harrison, the equity and inclusion manager for the City of Tempe.

Lamy explained it like this,

“If you’re a senior citizen and you’re living off your social security at $735 a month, your annual income is around $8,000 a year. Well, a college student who’s working a part-time job, I’m just going to say Chick-Fil-A, just to pick something out of a hat, their income may be $8,000 a year as well.

“Neither of those two populations is any more or less important than the other because they both need an affordable place to live. So it’s looking at what the income levels are and then doing things that incentivize developers,” he said.  “We’re trying to make sure that folks in those income brackets are able to have somewhere that they can afford to live.“

If the Hilo Tempe is unable to obtain the necessary waivers for a 21-and-over age restriction, Lamy said that the complex would be referred to the city attorney’s office. “[They] would have to look at whether or not they would be able to use this age restriction without a waiver. Because at that point, without the waiver, it would be in conflict with the city’s individual and more restrictive policy.”

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