Flagstaff’s New Mayor Names Climate Change, Affordable Housing as First Priorities

Flagstaff’s New Mayor Names Climate Change, Affordable Housing as First Priorities

By Corinne Murdock |

Flagstaff Mayor Becky Daggett will focus first on addressing climate change and affordable housing. 

Daggett issued this promise during her swearing-in at last week’s city council meeting. She said she would direct her staff to tackle these two issues first. 

“[We are going to emphasize] affordable housing and climate action, and also scheduling meetings with the public and really trying to hit the ground running,” said Daggett. 

Affordable housing and climate action are the leading two of several priorities Daggett pledged on the campaign trail. After those priorities, Daggett listed small business growth, job creation, and increased investment in “greener” multi-modal transportation: pedestrian pathways, biking, and busing. 

A week prior to her swearing-in, Daggett attended a bipartisan meeting with 12 other mayors to discuss housing as well as public safety, American Rescue Plan funds, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and CHIPS and Science Act. Daggett met with President Joe Biden, the White House Intergovernmental Affairs staff, Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Martin Walsh, and Housing & Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. 

Both Daggett and the former mayor, Paul Deasy, ran their campaigns on promises to tackle climate change and affordable housing. On the trail, Daggett indicated that she would lean into higher density housing (high rise apartments, etc.) or missing middle housing (duplexes, townhomes, bungalow courts, carriage houses, etc.) to expand neighborhood walkability. Daggett also indicated a desire to reduce parking minimums.

Daggett noted that state law precludes Flagstaff from implementing its ideal affordable housing initiatives. Daggett said that until state law relaxes, the city would rely on incentives such as Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, partnerships with nonprofit and for-profit developers on city-owned land, and prioritize affordable housing during budget talks. 

Climate change has been a winning topic for Flagstaff’s voters for the better part of the past decade; former mayor Coral Evans committed the city to carbon neutrality by 2030, a plan which Daggett supports. Affordable housing presents a newer concern prompted by the hot-turned-cold housing market, combined with the glut of short-term rental properties in the area.

Last June, Daggett and the Flagstaff City Council passed a Carbon Neutrality Plan. The plan noted that every action would integrate equity as a foundational element. The council pledged to encourage alternatives to cars such as walking, biking, rolling, and busing; reduce citizens’ dependence on driving; electrify its buses; expand micro-mobility devices; support citizens’ transition to electric vehicles; transition to 100 percent renewable electricity for municipal needs; increase renewable energy installations and usage in new buildings while supporting solar installations on existing buildings; reduce or remove natural gas usage in municipal buildings; encourage electrical grid reliance on new buildings; require new homes to be net zero energy homes by 2030; encourage sustainable consumption; divert waste from the landfill; reduce organic waste to the landfill to feed people; and develop a portfolio of local and regional carbon dioxide removal initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality.

Last August, Daggett said she would look to use American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand emergency shelter and affordable housing initiatives. In June, Daggett said that the city should apply its $5 billion budget surplus to climate action and affordable housing. 

According to Flagstaff’s profile on the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), the city has about 971,600 annual GHG emissions. It’s completed five out of nine phases spanning mitigation, adaption, and energy access & poverty initiatives. 

GCoM is a coalition of over 11,500 cities and local governments across six continents and 142 countries pledging to lower emissions and establish climate resiliency. GCoM is co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, and Frans Timmersman, European Commission executive vice president for the European Green New Deal. 

GCoM ex-officio members include Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC executive secretary; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat executive director; and the Global Covenant of Mayors executive director. On the board are the mayors of Guelph, Canada; Warsaw, Poland; Heidelberg, Germany; Colombo, Shri Lanka; Kloto 1, Togo; Makati, Philippines; and Hobart, Australia. 

Phoenix is also a member of GCoM, with reported annual GHG emissions of 16.45 million.  

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.