Tucson has many housing options and you can get really nice apartments (or even small houses) at very affordable prices.
More housing is available immediately than in advance. You can sometimes find housing more than a month in advance listed online (see below), or by directly contacting managers of apartment buildings. Sometimes a later rental date can be negotiated for a property that is listed as being available immediately.
Many postdocs have also had success moving to Tucson with temporary housing (see below) and securing a rental within a few weeks. If you are in town and see an apartment building that you like, you can inquire with the manager on site. Another good plan is to contact future colleagues, Ph.D. students, or current postdocs. With 2-3 weeks of temporary housing, or someone from your new department to check out a place, it is very doable to find suitable housing.
Quality of houses varies, and it is not recommended to rent a place you have not visited in person. If you are unable to go yourself, ask someone in your program or any friend/acquaintance to see the place. It could save you serious time, hassle, and money.
Neighborhoods: The vast majority of postdocs live within a roughly 3 mile radius of campus. The most popular areas are south of Downtown in Armory Park, north of Campus up to E Fort Lowell Road and east of campus up to about N Swan Road.
For more information, google Tucson neighborhoods and ask your UA Postdoc advisor to be put in touch with other grad students and postdocs.
A good resource is to check the stats for neighborhoods, which provide info on crime, education, cost of living, livability, among others: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/police/statistics.
Types of housing: Roughly there are three to four types of housing in Tucson. Apartments in gated complexes, single homes (often one storey, 1-2 bedrooms with a yard), sharing in a larger house or historical adobe style house in Armory Park or the Barrio Viejo (south of downtown). Have a look around and consider which type of housing best fits your needs.
Prices & Important Housing Consideration
Costs: Depending on the neighborhood and the condition of the place, one bedroom apartments normally run from $400-800/month and more for other options. Be aware that neighborhoods that are not as safe and further from campus might be cheaper than those that are more proximal and safe.
Utilities: Utilities such as electricity and gas (AC) can be extremely expensive in hot months and should be considered when looking for housing. Utilities can range from $60-120/month depending on usage and the quality of the type of AC. Ask landlords for previous bills from tenants and average prices.
You probably will look for either an apartment or a small house. In my experience prices are low south of the UA and increase north, toward the mountains. Most students and some postdocs live in the vicinity of the university (mostly north and east); many postdocs live north of the university and most faculty lives in or close to the foothills. The closer you are to the mountains in the north the nicer the houses/apartments and the neighborhoods are, but the commute is somewhat longer.
Cooling: Some (older) houses have "evaporative cooling" or a “swamp cooler” instead of regular A/C. Some people like swamp coolers because they increase humidity in the house, some people recommend against them because they get sick. They also don’t cool efficiently during Monsoon season. Alternatively, cool mist humidifiers that are widely available can be highly effective for keeping indoor rooms cool.
Temporary Housing Upon Arrival
Airbnb is generally affordable, but prices can jump in February, due to the Gem and Mineral Show
Ask to send an email to Postdocs and Grad students in your new Department/Program.
Send an email to contact in your network to ask for recommendations as they might well know someone who has a place to stay temporarily or for a longer duration.
Extended stay hotels.
Where to Find Housing Here are some recommendations for finding the right place for you:
Apartment Guide: (https://www.apartmentguide.com/apartments/Arizona/Tucson/)
Above and Beyond
Above and Beyond is a relocation service that the UA contracts. They help match people with realtors who help them buy or rent a place to live. They had a big emphasis on the "match" aspect of the service. This service has been free to postdocs in the past