Q&AZ: Can Empty Phoenix Office Space Be Used To House Homelessness People?

By Amanda Day
Published: Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 1:59pm
Updated: Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 2:07pm

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A for lease sign at an office complex in north Phoenix
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
A for lease sign at an office complex in north Phoenix.

One listener asked through KJZZ's Q&AZ project if vacant office space in metro Phoenix could be use to house people experiencing homelessness.

Converting office space to residential housing is possible, but there are differences in the plumbing, electrical and ventilation systems. That’s according to Mark Stapp with W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

He says zoning also plays a role. 

"Zoning’s a big problem sometimes. Because there are places where people don’t want apartments, and you may get a lot of push back from a neighborhood for instance that backs up to the building where they're quite happy because in the evening nobody’s in the office building," says Stapp.

Even if an owner is able to meet all the requirements to convert a property, people experiencing homelessness need more than just a roof over their heads. That’s according to Alan Stephenson, Phoenix’s planning and development director.

“It’s not just residential that’s needed; it is life skills, job training, drug and alcohol, other mental health issues. Lots of other support things that have to go into providing services for homeless," said Stephenson.

Stephenson says in order to convert a property for a homeless shelter, a special permit could be needed.

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