Friday, October 14, 2016

SLC Council to Take on Homelessness, Affordable Housing

With housing crunch and growing homelessness, city leaders to mull solutions.

Posted By on October 14, 2016, 4:27 PM

Salt Lake City's homeless shelter on Rio Grande St. - FILE/ANDY FILMORE
  • FILE/Andy Filmore
  • Salt Lake City's homeless shelter on Rio Grande St.
With rising prices and high demand for rental units, Salt Lake City is wrestling with the complex, and often tandem, issues of affordable housing and homelessness.

While many of Salt Lake City’s urban peers across the country have grappled with these issues for decades, the phenomenon of a sudden shortage of affordable units in Zion and the humans that are pushed into the streets as a result, has become a key topic for the council.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the council will convene a discussion on homelessness, while focusing on ways to ensure that the city’s middle class and poorer residents have access to shelter.

According to a City Council staff report, 75 percent of the city’s renting population spends more than 30 percent percent of its monthly income on rent—a key indicator that the robust housing market is gouging the majority of renters, forcing some to go without food, clothing and other necessities. The report notes that when families pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, they are considered “cost burdened,” meaning they are likely forgoing other necessities, such as health care.

“If you are paying more than 30 percent of your income for housing, including utilities, you are not living in housing you can afford,” the staff report notes.

The discussion comes amid growing tension between the council and Mayor Jackie Biskupski over plans to place four new 150-bed homeless shelters across the city. Council members have criticized the mayor for failing to provide them adequate information on the potential locations of new shelters.

The council is expected to discuss myriad possibilities for alleviating the city’s affordable housing gap, including an inclusionary zoning law, which would require that a certain percentage of new units constructed must be sold or rented at market rate. Other possibilities include a voucher program, donating land and providing incentives to landlords.

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the staff report shows that fair market rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in Salt Lake City is $757 per month, $938 for a two-bedroom and $1,575 for a four-bedroom.

The council will begin its discussion on homelessness and affordable housing at 6:30 p.m. in room 326 at the City and County Building, 451 S. State Street.

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