Salt Lake City holds out an $8M carrot in hopes of luring more affordable housing

Latest round of low-interest loans is meant to entice more sustainable building, tiny homes and other affordable offerings, including for the east side.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announces Sept. 21, 2021, that there is $8 million in funding available for the development of affordable housing in the city.

Seeking to ease a housing squeeze as its population swells, Salt Lake City put out word Tuesday of another $8 million in available loans for developers interested in building affordable homes.

The offer from its Redevelopment Agency is the city’s fourth in almost as many years as Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council continue to back incentives for mixed-income apartments and single-family homes amid the construction boom, with a focus now on adding tiny dwellings as well as those more suitable for families.

Developers at various stages of planning and financial backing for qualifying projects across Utah’s capital are encouraged to apply, with a deadline of Oct. 29.

The city’s latest reveal on $8 million in new potential loans comes as Salt Lake County has more than 18,000 apartments either under construction or in the works, with even more being approved for building permits. Yet with rental vacancies across Salt Lake County at all-time lows and housing prices climbing to record heights, a significant gap persists in dwellings affordable to those making moderate incomes, a trend made worse by a pandemic-induced surge in homebuying.

“Housing is still in very high demand in Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall said Tuesday in announcing the new cash. “As we watch the skyline grow and change before our eyes with development, this is our very tangible intersection with private investment, to get more affordability where there wouldn’t be any.

“This is not our first show of that commitment,” the mayor added, “and it certainly won’t be our last.”

Mendenhall, council member Ana Valdemoros and RDA Chief Operating Officer Danny Walz announced the notice of financing while standing in front of the Mya, one of two adjacent and newly opened housing projects in a transit-oriented development called The Exchange on 400 South.

They cited the Mya at 447 S. Blair St. and nearby Avia as examples of the city taking a stake with the private sector in encouraging a wider variety of homes, including the Mya’s micro-dwellings of 400 square feet. Adjacent to TRAX, many of the project’s 136 units are available to those earning 40% or 80% of the region’s prevailing wages, thanks to government subsidies and tax credits, including a $3 million city loan to the project’s developers.

Valdemoros said the RDA alone had pumped $70 million into backing more than 400 units of affordable housing over the past decade and nearly 108 units this year alone through loans, tax breaks and buying and selling developable land, giving it “a long track record of trying to be part of the solution in our housing situation.”

In this round of funding, the city will favor loan applications for sustainable construction. Some $2.7 million of the latest $8 million RDA loan pool is being set aside to entice housing developments proposed in what officials deem higher-opportunity neighborhoods, mostly on the east side.

The city has seen limited success in the past in drawing affordable housing development to its more affluent eastern neighborhoods, where land is also more expensive.

The mayor called RDA financing for developers “a big piece” of her administration’s housing strategy, one that includes new approaches to zoning and density, encouraging adaptive use of existing buildings, steering housing closer to mass transit, and creating a more equitable spread of housing types to serve residents at various stages of life.