Supporting struggling tenants is a higher priority than ever in SLC’s new housing plan

Salt Lake City has unveiled a new detailed plan to deal with the deepening housing crisis that focuses on two main strategies: building more affordable housing and helping struggling tenants.

The five-year plan has an ambitious goal of enabling up to 10,000 new housing units by the end of 2027, with 2,000 of these being subsidized to be moderately affordable and keeping another 2,000 at a “very affordable” level – within financial reach of residents who earn less than 30% of the region’s average wage.

The title “Housing SLC 2023-2027” is also intended to help up to 10,000 low-income residents every year who are at risk of being evicted due to rising rents and housing instability. income households.

The housing plan, prepared under Mayor Erin Mendenhall, which was developed in conjunction with an unprecedented public consultation spanning more than a year, is nearing final review and approval by the Salt Lake City City Council. From then on, the 30-page document would underpin housing policy for years to come.

The list of action items fulfills a requirement by the Utah legislature that all cities adopt at least a handful of actions from a long list of opportunities to promote more moderately priced housing. However, Salt Lake City aims to have 18 strategies by 2027.

“The current housing crisis requires a bold response,” says the draft plan, which envisions “a more affordable city for all” and “prioritises those individuals and households who are most at risk of housing insecurity, displacement and homelessness.”

Here are the key takeaways:

Even in the midst of a real estate boom, rents and real estate prices are prohibitive for most residents.

Thousands of homes are under construction across the city, but the plan finds “a mismatch” between the types of homes the market is producing and what the community needs. The residents want more affordability, more apartment types in the so-called “missing middle” between condominiums and single-family houses and more family-friendly offers.

The current housing shortage, the plan says, is worst for those on lower incomes but is also affecting those on the income scale.

Reasons for the crisis: At least since 2005, wage growth has lagged behind increases in rents and house prices. Most city dwellers are now renters and more than half spend well over 30% of their income on housing, putting them ‘cost-burdened’. and make them more vulnerable to displacement or homelessness.

A related city study, titled “Thriving in Place,” found that 93% of respondents were concerned about ongoing gentrification and that Utah’s capital has no more “affordable” neighborhoods for middle-income earners to end up in, with the problem particularly colourful Meets people, families, seniors and students.

The gap is widening, although the city continues to grow rapidly, adding 13,283 residents between 2010 and 2020. According to forecasts, more than 6,000 will be added in the next five years.

The housing shortage is difficult to measure, but it can easily run into the thousands.

Based on 2021 inventories, the city has deficits in housing affordable for those with the lowest wages, but also for those earning 80% of median income or more, including upscale homes. Overall, the shortage amounts to approximately 14,065 units at various levels, not counting the approximately 3,000 additional units the city expects to need for new residents.

The five-year plan focuses on boosting housing at the most affordable end to fill a identified 5,500-unit gap in ultra-affordable housing, assuming the strategy will also unlock homes with higher rents and sales prices.

The idea is that for-profit markets will continue to encourage the construction of affordable housing, but the lack of available land in the more populated zones of the city and high construction costs combined with capped rents prevent private developers from making extremely affordable housing financially viable.

“We will focus on the people who need it the most and the types of housing that are the most difficult to build,” said Ruedigar Matthes, who is the contact person for the plan.

Although City Council Chairman Darin Mano cites the plan’s high goals compared to other cities, “it clearly doesn’t solve the problem in five years.” … Even if we achieve all of these goals, we’re still only achieving a third of what is actually needed.”

“I’m sad that we can’t meet the demand at 100% faster,” said Mano, “so we just have to act as soon as possible.”

Supporting tenants is a higher priority than ever.

This ties in with findings from Thriving in Place, which revealed a shocking picture of widespread financial instability among tens of thousands of tenants. In 2021, the city has billed well over 50% of its tenants for the first time since at least 2005 — and rents continue to rise faster than most paychecks.

But with policies like rent control and inclusive zoning prohibited under Utah law, the city is instead hoping to expand its ability to help struggling tenants in other ways, including providing new money to a pool of relocation assistance funds to help the displaced intended new development or rising rents.

The city also intends to increase tracking and analysis of displacement patterns; Strengthening of tenant protection; advocate for them legally and do more to educate them about their rights; and prioritizing access to new, rent-subsidized housing for low-income residents when they are evicted.

There’s also a big push in the plan for the rehabilitation and preservation of older, affordable homes to keep renters in their place. It will also encourage the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and the conversion of former hotels and motels into new homes. The city vows to take a community-benefits approach to future land-use debates, the plan says, to prioritize preserving or replacing affordable homes as a condition for approving zoning changes.

The city wants to develop and support programs that enable renters to achieve financial justice based on their tenure where they live, and create new ways to promote home ownership and wealth creation for at least 1,000 low-income households.

The city advances on many new fronts.

Utah’s capital cannot solve a regional and national housing problem on its own, the plan and elected leaders concede. The draft strategy package therefore repeatedly calls for cooperation with non-profit organizations and other authorities and governments in order to promote housing construction for people with middle incomes.

Under the plan, the city will continue to push for more tiny homes and service homes in existing neighborhoods, as well as increasing the allowable density and building height around its transit corridors and job centers. She wants to develop a community land trust for the acquisition and allocation of land for affordable housing projects and continue to reduce or waive the impact fees she charges for new developments that include affordable housing.

And the city will continue efforts to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including providing millions in grants to those developing supportive housing and expanding outreach programs to provide the homeless with more resources connect.

City officials say they will do more lobbying with state officials and leaders in other cities as well, to get them more involved in the problem.

“Solving this problem should not be left to the capital alone,” said Councilor Alejandro Puy. “Every jurisdiction in the state has to be on the same page.”

Justin Scaccy

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