Cottonwood residents say they are struggling to find housing because a resort is buying properties for its employees.

Melany Walton had thought poplar would be the perfect place for her to spend her retirement years.

When she decided to move from California to small town Arizona 12 years ago, she expected her cost of living to be cheaper.

And for a while they were.

Walton’s rent for her three-bedroom home was significantly cheaper than prices she might have expected in the Golden State.

But the housing situation in Cottonwood has begun to change, and Walton fears that he will soon find himself homeless.

“There aren’t a lot of places available for rent,” the 72-year-old resident said. “I still don’t have a place to go. It’s getting more and more desperate.”

Walton’s predicament began earlier this summer after he received notice that his home had been purchased by Enchantment, a luxury resort located approximately 20 miles in Sedona.

The disabled retiree thought the change in landlord might lead to an increase in her rent. But the new owners didn’t want more of Walton’s money: they wanted her gone.

The station is giving Walton until the end of August to find a new home, and she hasn’t had a chance to find another rental that she can afford with just her Social Security funds.

“It’s very depressing,” she told 12News. “At my age, I didn’t think I was going to have to move again.”

“It ruins the city”

Walton isn’t the only Cottonwood tenant struggling.

The Enchantment has purchased at least 28 units in the Cottonwood area to house its employees, which resort officials say is needed to relieve resort workers who cannot find their own accommodations.

The station says it simply purchased properties that were being put up for sale in order “to provide additional help and support to employees.”

But locals say the enchantment problem is just one part of a much larger problem that has plagued their community recently – a major lack of affordable housing.

Dwindling supply and rising prices have put some tenants in a difficult dilemma and some feel it is unfair for a business from another city to buy properties in their territory.

“It’s ruining the town,” said Ken Wood, a Cottonwood resident for nearly 40 years. “It’s sad to hear what’s going on.”

Wood owns a moving company and says he’s received many desperate phone calls from locals who don’t know where to go.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Wood added.

Enchantment representatives say they have had to seek housing in nearby communities due to a shortage of affordable homes and apartments in Sedona.

Cottonwood is a rural town of approximately 12,000 located in Yavapai County that does not have an abundance of housing listed on the market. A quick search of the Zillow website yields only a handful of properties available for rent and most are considered beyond the price range of locals who have lived in Cottonwood for years.

April Montgomery’s daughter had to live in an RV on her mother’s property after failing to find affordable housing in Cottonwood.

Like Walton, Montgomery’s daughter received a notice earlier this year warning her and her children to vacate their property after it was purchased by Enchantment.

Now Montgomery’s daughter is being asked to pay up to $2,500 a month for the same type of home she previously rented and Cottonwood residents aren’t used to seeing rents at that price point.

“We don’t live in Silicon Valley, it’s just Cottonwood,” Montgomery said.

“Where are we all going? »

The housing situation in Cottonwood became so dire that it forced some residents to leave the community altogether.

Barbara Reed recently moved to Florida after her landlord decided to move back into the three-bedroom unit she was renting.

She tried to find another place in Cottonwood, but ultimately decided it was best for her to move across the country.

“There’s nothing available,” Reed said.

Residents across Arizona have been feeling the ramifications of the state’s housing crisis for several months. A spike in demand and limited supply quickly drove up prices while wages failed to keep pace with rising costs.

According to a study by National Low Income Housing CoalitionArizona residents must earn at least $23.44 an hour or work 73 hours a week at state minimum wage to pay the average cost of a two-bedroom rental.

But the housing crisis may be even more severe in rural Arizona communities, where real estate developers may not be as eager to build and socioeconomic conditions may not be as good as in metropolitan areas.

The most recent census statistics show that a higher percentage of Cottonwood residents live in poverty compared to national and statewide percentages and that the city’s median household income is significantly lower than the Arizona average.

Lisa Sanchez was busy working two jobs when she found out her rental had been bought by The Enchantment earlier this summer. She didn’t have much time to ask questions before finding out that she and her college-aged son would soon have to find a new residence.

She spent days stressing out and losing sleep before Sanchez found a place to stay, but she still worries about her neighbors who haven’t had the same luck finding another rental.

“Where are we all going to go,” asked Sanchez, whose family has deep roots in Cottonwood spanning generations.

Sanchez says she has never experienced a housing situation like this before and feels it is unfair that her community is being asked to move elsewhere.

“Our whole world has just been turned upside down,” she said.

RELATED: Arizona’s housing market is changing. Here are 4 things real estate experts are seeing right now

RELATED: ‘Unfortunately, we knew this was coming’: Over 300 people have already died this year on the streets of the Valley

Up to speed

Check out the latest news and stories on our 12 News YouTube playlist here.