Zoning and Student Housing in La Plaza Vieja

Published By
Health Impact Project

The La Plaza Vieja Neighborhood Association, residents of Arrowhead Village, Hermosa Vida community organizers, the Department of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University, and an independent HIA consultant conducted a rapid HIA to examine the potential health effects a local rezoning proposal intended to accommodate new student housing in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The HIA found that the zoning code change and subsequent housing development would displace approximately 170 people living in 56 mobile homes in Arrowhead Village, which could result in increased housing costs—and could in turn present a range of physical and mental health risks—for residents and could affect the health of other area residents through changes in traffic safety and crime. The HIA made several recommendations to mitigate potential effects, including providing legally binding relocation packages for displaced residents before they must vacate and requiring the developer to purchase and develop land for mobile homes that is close to schools, employment, and affordable grocery stores and to allow flexibility in resident move-out dates to prevent cost burden on displaced residents. The HIA also offered recommendations to alleviate potential neighborhood preservation effects, including traffic calming strategies, additional security measures such as 24-hour on-site staff, and changes to the building’s specifications such as reducing the total number of students it will house and shortening it to match the tallest existing building in the neighborhood. 


Members of the HIA team and several community partners cited the findings and recommendations in written and oral testimony to the local planning and zoning commission, which recommended denial of the proposed development. The developer ultimately withdrew the application.


This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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