Utah affordable housing projects get $10 million from the Legislature

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) The Utah Capitol at dusk on Feb. 5, 2020, during the legislative session.

The Utah Legislature has passed a bill intended to address Utah’s lack of affordable housing, though with a substantial trim in the spending originally sought by its chief sponsor.

Early in the 45-day legislative session, SB39 called for $35.3 million in new cash for low-interest loans to housing developers and for rental assistance for struggling families. That spending got slashed Tuesday to $10 million.

The bill now puts $5 million instead of $15 million toward the so-called gap financing loans to developers from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund and another $5 million toward preserving existing affordable housing slated for demolition or remodeling for rental at higher rates.

Gone is nearly $15 million originally proposed to help up to 4,000 families pay their rents each year, some $5 million of that intended to target those with school-aged kids teetering on the edge of homelessness.

Sponsoring Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, has noted several times that SB39’s original price tag was unlikely to survive what lawmakers say is a tight budget year. The measure has nonetheless been a priority for the Salt Lake Chamber and others, in light of an estimated shortage of nearly 55,000 affordable homes statewide, particularly those within reach of lower-income residents.

A bill last year ended up providing no additional money for the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, though it included new requirements that cities plan for moderately price housing within their boundaries — or miss out on state transportation dollars.

This year’s SB39 — a product of two years of study by the state-created Commission on Housing Affordability — has also faced opposition from conservatives over policy issues, drawing several split votes on the House and Senate floors as it advanced.

“Some have wondered what the role of the state should be in addressing this issue,” said Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, who sponsored SB39 in the House, where it drew approval on a 48-to-24 vote.

The revised SB39 needs Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature to become law.