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Is Arizona still a retirement haven? Some say that is changing 

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Alex Gonzalez

(Arizona News Connection) Arizona has long been known as one of the 'retirement friendly states,' in the U.S. for its affordability, but that is changing. 

Brendon Blake, director of advocacy with AARP Arizona said the cost of living in the state has gone up faster than the cost of living adjustment Arizona seniors receive in their social security checks. According to Blake, the average social security check in Arizona is just over 1,500 dollars a month. According to Zillow, the median monthly rent price in the Phoenix metropolitan area is just over $2,000. He says the situation places a financial hardship on many seniors in the state, leading some to lose it all.

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"Even just paying your property taxes can be a burden," he said. "We are seeing so many people who are over the age of 55 now fall into its not 'one day you have a home and one day you don't,' but we are seeing so many people over the age of 55 becoming homeless and the majority of those who are doing that are doing so for the very first time."

In 2022, Arizona saw the highest percentage of inbound moves according to the moving company Allied Van Lines. Blake added AARP Arizona has been advocating for more housing options. There are lots of single-family homes, but there is "missing middle housing," which includes duplexes, triplexes and condos, he said. Blake added current developments do not always address the at market and below market housing needs. 

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Blake is supportive of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs' $150 million allocation in the state's budget to the Housing Trust Fund which provides incentives for affordable housing and housing assistance programs. Blake said $60 million will go towards homeless shelters and services, 1/3 of which is available for use this year. The affordable housing shortage and the homeless crisis go hand-in-hand, Blake explained. 

"The rise in people who are unhoused, especially in Maricopa County, is very concerning. And it is something we need to address and there are a number of legislators on both sides of the aisle that are interested in addressing it which is always encouraging," he continued. 

Blake said moving forward, it will be crucial to address population density in Arizona. He and AARP are advocating for what they call "livable communities," where someone can grow up and grow old in one place.